The Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA), the union for Australia’s creative professionals, has expressed serious concern over recommendations of the Australian Law Reform Commission to overhaul Australia’s copyright regime.
In its Copyright in the Digital Economy report tabled in Parliament last week, the ALRC have proposed the introduction of a US-style “fair use” exception to Australia’s copyright – which if accepted by government would have the potential to seriously harm Australia’s creative industries.
MEAA federal secretary Christopher Warren said: “Although the exception outlined in the ALRC report does offer some protections for copyright holders including an express statement that “fair use” of copyrighted material should not infringe copyright, the proposed list of factors remain vague, complex and open to interpretation.
“This will inevitably lead to a boon for lawyers and severely undermine the sustainability of hardworking creative Australian businesses.”
In its submission to the inquiry (http://www.alliance.org.au/documents/130731_alrc_copyright.pdf) MEAA strongly argued against the proposal to replace existing exceptions in the Copyright Act with an open-ended "fair use" exception. Under current Australian copyright law “fair dealing” exceptions allow content to be copied for a limited number of specific purposes such as research, criticism, parody and news reporting. However, an open-ended US-style “fair use” exception is far broader, leading to increased levels of litigation to define its scope.
“We fear that the benefits of such an exception would be far outweighed by the difficulties in identifying what fits into the category of fair use,” Warren said.
The ALRC have also recommended changes to the well-established statutory licence regime which has for many years served both creators and the education sector well.
Sue McCreadie, MEAA’s national director of Equity said: “While the we welcome the decision by the inquiry to step back from its original radical proposal to repeal statutory licences, MEAA categorically rejects the revised proposal as it would significantly undermine the statutory licence regime and seriously impact the sustainability of the creative industries, particularly film and television businesses. The ALRC has failed to acknowledge the fundamental right of creators to make a living and be rewarded for their work.”
Christopher Warren said: “Creative professionals are entitled to be recognised and deserve to be remunerated for what they do – just like any worker. The arrival of digital platforms to forge, distribute, display and share created works does not alter that fact. New media provides opportunities – those opportunities should never be used as an excuse to strip creative people of their means of earning a living. The argument that the digital economy should transform created works into a free-for-all business model is a falsehood that actually undermines, stifles and erodes creativity – and ultimately harms consumers."