Organisations from across Australia’s creative and content industries have urged the government not to adopt the Productivity Commission’s proposed changes to copyright law.

In a joint statement, The Copyright Agency, APRA AMCOS, Screenrights, the Australian Society of Authors, the Australian Recording Industry Association, FreeTV Australia, News Corp, Foxtel, Australian Screen Association, Screen Producers Australia and the Australian Publishers Association described the commssion’s recommendations on copyright, as laid out in its recent intellectual property report, as “based on faulty premises and misunderstandings.”

The commission’s report was handed down last December, the result of a 12 month inquiry. It argued that Australia’s current IP arrangements “fall short in many ways” and that various improvements are required. One of those areas was copyright protection, the scope of which the commission argued was presently too broad.

“Australia’s copyright arrangements are skewed too far in favour of copyright owners to the detriment of consumers and intermediate users,” it said. 

Among the report’s recommendations are that Australia adopt a ‘fair use’ exception similar to that which exists in the US, that the safe harbour scheme be expanded to all online services, and that consumers should be able to circumvent geoblocking without infringing copyright. 

This week, the government closed public consultation on the PC’s report ahead of its own response later this year. 

In their joint media statement, the content industry groups wrote: “We support sensible reforms to the Copyright Act that benefit both Australian audiences and Australian creators."

“However, the Productivity Commission’s recommendations, including the introduction of a US-style ‘fair use’ exception and expansion of the safe harbour provision to big tech companies, will make it easier for these large organisations to use Australian content without fair payment and will mean less production of Australian stories.”

They argued that the rights of Australian creators to receive fair payment for their work would be diminished under the proposed changes.

“The Productivity Commission’s report takes an unusually hostile approach towards Australian content rooted in a naivety about just how fragile the system is and what is necessary to encourage and support Aussie creativity,” they said. 

“Intellectual property is an economic driver and facilitator of innovation. It enables the development and commercialisation of clever ideas and a return on investment in production, marketing and distribution.”

“This is why the report has united the Australian creative community like no other report in recent times. If the Productivity Commission’s recommendations were implemented it would cause a serious reduction in the amount of Australian content produced.”

Earlier this week a group of 42 Indigenous artists, including Leah Purcell, Wayne Blair, Jessica Mauboy and Hunter Page-Lochard, wrote an open letter to government stating they ‘unanimously reject’ the PC’s recommendations. 

“The recommendations to change copyright protections will harm the ability of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander film and television makers, writers, artists, musicians and journalists to tell Indigenous stories and make a living,” the letter said.

These objections are up against a group of 47 tech companies, schools, universities, libraries and consumer groups who have penned their own joint letter to government. The signatories, who include Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Yahoo, Ebay and Microsoft, have called on the Minister for Communication and the Arts Mitch Fifield to support the recommendation for a ‘fair use’ exception.

“In today’s rapidly evolving digital environment, a fair use exception is the only tool dynamic enough to allow Australia’s copyright laws to respond to new technologies, services and consumer practice,” the letter said.

Read the Productivity Commission's report here

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