(13.02.14) The Media and Entertainment Arts Alliance (MEAA), the Australian union of journalists, expressed serious concerns over the recent release of Australian Law Reform Committee (ALRC)’s Recommendations on copyright and its implication on creators’ authors’ rights.
Following an 18-month inquiry, the ALRC released its report on “Copyright and the Digital Economy”. The report aims to assess the exceptions and statutory licenses contained in the Australian Copyright Act 1968 and the need to adapt them to the digital environment.
The ALRC recommends several reforms, including the introduction of the US-like ‘fair use’ exception. This exception permits limited use of copyrighted material without acquiring permission from the rights holders. According to the ALRC, the introduction of fair use represents a more principled approach, less prescriptive, characterized by flexibility and ‘transformative uses’, that would support the public interest, promote innovation and at the same time respect authorship and protect rights holders’ markets. They propose a non-exhaustive list of “four fairness factors” to be considered in assessing whether use of another’s copyright material is fair and a non-exhaustive list of eleven illustrative purposes.
The MEAA has expressed deep concerns over this recommendation. In its response to the inquiry submitted in July 2013 the MEAA argued strongly against the fair use exception that could potentially harm Australia’s creative industries. “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”, said MEAA federal secretary Christopher Warren.
The recommendations also propose to amend the existing statutory license regime. This legal regime grants users rights to use copyrighted material, without having to seek the copyright owner’s permission. The ALRC envisions a less rigid and prescriptive system, with the terms being negotiated directly by the parties and not included in legislation.