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Government declines support for fair use in Productivity Commission response; industry groups respond

The federal government has declined to support the Productivity Commission’s recommendation to introduce a fair use exception to copyright law, and will instead consult on developing more flexible copyright exceptions next year.

In its response to the Productivity Commission’s inquiry into intellectual property arrangements, the government noted the recommendation to introduce fair use, and acknowledged that Australia’s current fair dealing exceptions are restrictive compared to other countries.

The government said it will aim to create ‘a modernised copyright exceptions framework’ that adapts to technological advances and future changes. ‘This is a complex issue and there are different approaches available to address it,’ the government said.

Public consultation is set to begin in early 2018, with the intention of gathering more detailed information on the consequences of any changes.

The government also supported the recommendation to strengthen the governance of collecting societies. The Department of the Communications and the Arts will review the voluntary code for collecting societies, in consultation with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

The government also supported ‘in principle’ the recommendation to repeal parallel import restrictions (PIRs) for books, to take effect no later than the end of 2017. The government said it will consult with the book industry ‘to develop a reform pathway that is in the public interest’.

As previously reported by Books+Publishing, in late 2015 the government announced it would repeal existing PIRs as recommended by the Competition Policy Review, once the Productivity Commission’s intellectual property inquiry was completed.

Industry groups respond

The Australian Publishers Association (APA) said the government’s in-principle support for the removal of PIRs is ‘disappointing’, although ‘it is a good result to have the support qualified as “in-principle”, and to have the Government indicate its interest in working with the industry’.

APA president Louise Adler said the organisation ‘welcomes the opportunity to explore with the Government our shared aims of a strong and competitive book industry’. ‘Industry-led initiatives will succeed better than radical change that would put at risk the creation of Australian works and the diversity of titles available to Australian readers,’ said Adler.

Australian Booksellers Association (ABA) CEO Joel Becker also welcomed the government’s acknowledgement of the collaborative effort of the book industry toward ‘ongoing improvement of the supply chain, and the provision of books at competitive prices’, adding that the ABA ‘appreciates that this will be taken into consideration in determining the Government’s final position’. ‘As well as already having established a Supply Chain Working Group with the Australian Publishers Association, the ABA continues to communicate with Government, their departments, the Opposition and the Cross Benches, to ensure that they are aware of the reforms and improvements being made to ensure supply of books at reasonable prices to the public,’ said Becker.

The Copyright Agency described the government’s response to the Productivity Commission report as ‘measured’. ‘We welcome the Government’s recognition that it is critical to have in place a copyright regime that supports Australian creators and innovators, encourages ongoing investment in creativity and the telling of Australian stories,’ said Copyright Agency CEO Adam Suckling. ‘The Productivity Commission had recommended Australia import a fair use copyright regime from the US. The introduction of fair use would have seriously undermined Australian writers, journalists, film and television-makers and artists, as well as all the great companies that invest in Australian creativity.’

Suckling said the Copyright Agency would ‘respond positively and constructively’ to the proposed review of the collecting societies’ voluntary code of conduct, and that it ‘values the opportunity to contribute to the Department’s consideration of the efficiency and effectiveness of statutory licenses’.

The Australian Society of Authors (ASA) said it was ‘encouraged by the Government’s response’. ‘Times have changed, and the talented authors that we represent understand that an updated copyright system—that can accommodate the challenges brought about by rapid technological change and innovation—is appropriate,’ said the ASA. ‘In our view effective copyright law simply provides the road map and monetisation tool that allows creative people to earn a fair living and build a sustainable career.’


Category: Local news