Senator the Hon. George Brandis QC talks piracy in AIMC 2013 keynote address
Keynote speaker, Senator the Honourable George Brandis QC, spoke to delegates and media at the opening session of the Australian International Movie Conference this morning.
In his 30 minute address, Senator Brandis covered a number of issues affecting the Australian screen industry, particularly focussing on the importance of encouraging Australian production and the need for more stringent copyright laws.
Nevertheless, the Senator opened on a positive note, expressing that despite alternative entertainment options, Australians are still by and large lovers of cinema and proud of our industry’s achievements.
“The Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed that despite distractions like high definition television and the internet, going to the movies is still far and away our most popular cultural activity,” he said. “Australians are proud of what we do in film and of the international success Australian filmmakers achieve. I’m sure that the everyday Australian takes just as much satisfaction from the number of Oscars Australians win at the Academy Awards as the number of gold medals we win at the Olympic Games. Indeed, in recent form there may soon be more Oscars than gold medals,” he joked.
Senator Brandis went on to discuss the effect the Australian screen production incentive has had on the industry since its introduction five years ago.
“The Australian screen production incentive was introduced in 2007 by me during my first term as the Arts Minister,” he recalled. “I’m pleased to see that five years on, the incentive has proved to be a highly successful stimulant for investment in Australian screen production. It has also served to attract a number of high budget films to be made in Australia. The producer offset, for films with significant Australian content, has helped raise the finance for 115 Australian feature films since I introduced it in 2007. This equates to over 452 million dollars in support, which has over time increased the viability of screen businesses.”
Senator Brandis acknowledged recent times have not been without challenges; “given the high value of the Australian dollar and an expanding number of tax breaks being offered in other countries and in many states in the United States,” but said rather than viewing the competition as a concern, he viewed the situation as one in which “Australia took the lead.”
He also stated: “During the election campaign I undertook to keep the thresholds of the offset under review and I reaffirm that commitment today.”
Senator Brandis then turned his attention to the issue of piracy, which had already been heavily discussed by previous speakers Peter Beattie and Michael Hawkins.
“As I said earlier, I want to reaffirm the government’s commitment to content industries,” he said. “Not only do they contribute to our economy, they build a culture of innovation and artistic endeavour in Australia. An effective legal framework of protection and enforcement of copyright is fundamental to sustaining today’s creative content industry and importantly, the cultural development of our nation. Australian already has a robust legal framework for the protection of copyright, but despite an extensive menu of criminal offences applicable under copyright law, still the problems of piracy and unauthorised use remain.”
He went on to discuss the need to readdress policy in light of technological advancements, noting that content creators have requested new copyright laws to reflect these changes.
“I understand that content industries are facing challenges at the business level. Some that are undoubtedly positive and some that have created new opportunities, but some that are less so. And that means we are all facing challenges at a policy level,” he said. “The internet has led to and continues to drive structural adjustments to content industries. New technologies are changing how governments should respond. Australia is not the only country facing these changes.”
“I note that the content industries have asked for a new set of copyright laws to protect their works from theft and piracy, laws that work in the digital age.”
However Senator Brandis stated it was not solely up to the government to combat these issues.
“In times of turbulent change, industry cannot rely solely on government to fix all the problems that arise,” he said. “Protection of copyright materials isn’t simply a matter of law or government intervention, it is importantly a matter of practice. You know better than I of the agility that modern successful businesses need, and I am pleased to say that you have been able to demonstrate.
“We are all awaiting the Australian Law Commission’s final report on copyright which is to be provided to the government at the end of next month. The government will consider the commission’s findings and any recommendations carefully. But in considering those recommendations, I will bring to that consideration the views that I have expressed in this speech.”
The AIMC was declared officially opened by Chairman of the Motion Picture Distributors Association of Australia, Marc Wooldridge, earlier this morning.
The 68th annual AIMC is being held at the Pavilion Convention Centre at Jupiter’s Hotel & Casino, Broadbeach Gold Coast, Queensland, from October 14 – 17, 2013.