Directors cry foul over Fair Use proposal

01 August, 2013 by Don Groves

The Australian Directors Guild has blasted the proposed watering down of copyright laws as a threat to content creators.

The Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) has recommended scrapping existing copyright exceptions and replacing them with the US concept of Fair Use.


Broadly that would mean copyrighted material could be reproduced without acquiring permission from the rights holders. Examples of Fair Use include commentary, search engines, criticism, news reporting, research, teaching, library archiving and scholarship.

“The main proposal to replace the current system of Fair Dealing and statutory licenses with Fair Use would do nothing but damage the many thousands of content creators in this country,” the ADG argued in a submission lodged on Wednesday in response to the ALRC discussion paper Copyright & the Digital Economy.

“Nowhere in this discussion paper does the ALRC prove their case that a change to a Fair Use system would assist in the development of better economic outcomes for Australia.”

The ALRC proposals have been opposed by virtually all sectors of the film, TV, radio and publishing industries including the Screen Producers Association of Australia, Free TV Australia, Screenrights, News Limited, Foxtel, the Australian Copyright Council and the Australian Writers Guild.

In the US the only recourse for copyright holders who believe copyright has been infringed is to take legal action.

The ADG estimates that an individual would need to spend at least $250,000 to challenge a case of Fair Use in an Australia court, beyond the reach of 90% of content creators. Screenrights said litigation in the Copyright Tribunal costs between $500,000 to $2 million per case.

ADG executive director Kingston Anderson said “there are no clear rules” under the Fair Use system and that would result in a “lawyers’ paradise.” He told IF his members would be most affected if educational institutions were no longer required to pay royalties under statutory licenses, which would be a big blow to documentary filmmakers.

“To move to a system that would make it the norm to use the court system to settle copyright issues will in the long run reduce the amount of content created and have a detrimental effect on the Australian economy,” the ADG argued in its submission.

The ALRC is due to report by November 30. Industry groups have raised their concerns with the federal government and with shadow Attorney-General Senator George Brandis.