The Screen Production Association of Australia has warned about a proposed easing of copyright laws and lamented the fall in the volume of TV drama production.

SPAA’s executive director Matthew Deaner blasted recommendations by the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) which he said would repeal all existing copyright exceptions and replace them with a vague US concept known as ‘fair use,’ which would be largely determined by litigation.

That “thinking is out of touch with commercial reality and shows no understanding of the issues facing our sector,” he told Screen Australia’s Jobs, Dollars, Hearts and Minds conference in Canberra. “These views, if left uncorrected, would undermine many legitimate sources of income.”

Deaner said the number of feature films produced today is at best static and there has been a drop in the number of hours of Australian TV drama.

In the documentary field, the volume of hours had increased but the number of titles declined due to the rise of documentary series at the expense of one-off projects.

He acknowledged that in the past five years the producer offset has strengthened the recoupment position of the production business but said there are limited opportunities for private feature film investment and local distribution.

“Coinciding with reduced payments for content are rising expenses – squeezing the budgets and industry in every direction,” he said.

He reiterated SPAA’s chief priorities as increasing the producer offsets; producing “international facing content”; protecting commercial terms via the offset mechanism or content standard; stressing the importance of the national broadcasters; and developing new distribution and commissioning opportunities.

The association aims to build bridges across the screen sector, starting in Canberra on Wednesday with a forum with leaders of the MEAA. On the same day SPAA is hosting the Tomorrow's Australian Screen Stories annual breakfast moderated by Sky News' David Speers, with a policy Q&A between Arts Minister Tony Burke and Shadow Arts Minister Senator George Brandis.


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  1. With respect, Mr Deaner and IF are drawing a VERY long bow by trying to draw a link between copyright reform and production volumes. This is always the classic scare tactic that big business trots out whenever anyone suggests some sorely needed reform to copyright law. It’s a tactic that is not based on any evidence and is plain out wrong.

    Instead of scaring everybody, why not explain what the ALRC is actually recommending?

    A “fair use” rule allows exceptions to copyright law to be decided by the courts so they may remain flexible and respond to advances in technology and evolution of our cultural values. Fair use allows the court to decide whether things like transformative works such as re-mixing are OK. Or whether Google is allowed to reproduce news content on it’s news aggregator. (Or technically speaking, whether a search engine is allowed to exist in the first place). Check out the Wiki page:
    Sure, it might cost more money because it’s decided through litigation, but that’s a fair price to pay for flexibility in the law to keep up to date with our fast changing world.

    “Fair dealing” on the other hand, is the exception regime we have in Australia and is half a century out of date. It’s closed, inflexible, old school, and does not allow exceptions that any reasonable person in today’s society would expect exist.

    We desperately need reform to Oz copyright law. It’s so broken! Our flawed fair dealing exceptions are just the tip of the iceberg. We need further copyright exceptions for libraries and cultural institutions to preserve our history, allow the public to access orphan works, permit the digitisation of old works for future posterity, and allow software developers to actually get ahead her in Oz.

    Fair use exceptions do not interfere production of film and tv. Instead it will actually open up more opportunities for all of us.

    Chris Kamen

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