Productivity Commission sparks widespread anger over copyright changes

Recommendations by the Productivity Commission to loosen copyright laws in Australia have sparked condemnation from the TV and creative communities, who have warned that the changes would undermine local investment in talent.

Free TV CEO Brett Saville says Productivity Commission "out of touch"

Free TV CEO Brett Saville says the Productivity Commission is “out of touch”

Amongst a sweeping set of recommendations the commission has said “Fair Use” provisions of the Copyright Act should be relaxed in order to reflect the changing way in which the world consumes creative content. In addition, the circumventing of geo-blocking should not be seen as a copyright infringement, the recommendations said.

The commission’s report said that Australians broke the law 80 times a day through “illegal” use of copyrighted material and suggested Australia look to the US and other international models for guidance.

The report covered copyright, IP, patents, book imports and pharmaceuticals.

The recommendations included:

  • Replace Australia’s existing fair dealing exceptions in the Copyright Act with a broad and open-ended fair use exception;
  • Repeal parallel import restrictions for books;
  • Strengthen the Copyright Act to make clear circumventing geo-blocking technology is not a copyright infringement.

Free TV Australia slammed the commission’s stance, describing it as “completely out of touch” and demanded the government reject them.

“The recommendations in this report will have a detrimental impact on our industry and our viewers,” Free TV CEO Brett Saville said.

“Free TV opposes the replacement of the existing clear and certain fair dealing exceptions with a US style one-size fits all provision that is aimed at serving the interests of overseas based big tech companies.”

Saville said the changes would be a direct threat to the $1.5b spent on production in Australia each year and placed 15,000 jobs at risk.

“The availability of cheaper or more readily available content from other markets is not a substitute for an entire local content industry, or the cultural value it holds,” he said.

Adam Suckling warned a generation of Australian talent would be lost if changes are adopted.

Adam Suckling warned a generation of Australian talent would be lost if changes are adopted

Copyright Agency CEO, Adam Suckling, said the commission had ignored the overwhelming majority of submissions with more than 75% opposed to its recommendations.

“Australians artists, writers, musicians and filmmakers have a right to receive fair payment for their work,” Suckling said.

“These sweeping changes to Australian copyright laws being pushed by the Productivity Commission as well as American big tech companies will see these protections taken away.”

He warned that under the proposed changes a generation of Australian talent would be lost.

“This is not just unfair, it is a threat to jobs of young Australians. This extreme approach outlined by the Commission will make it much harder to nurture the next generation of stars and Aussie icons – the Jimmy Barneses, Magda Szubanskis, Jessica Mauboys, Patrick Whites and Mad Max’s of the future,” he said.

The report said the overly long copyright restrictions hindered people’s access to content, while Australia’s fair use provisions were too narrow and should be relaxed to mirror better those in use in the US.

It also said that the use of geo-blocking by content owners was a major issue.

“The use of geo-blocking technology is pervasive, and frequently results in Australian consumers being offered a lower level of digital service (such as a more limited music or TV streaming catalogue) at a higher price than in overseas markets” the report said.

“While some digital-savvy consumers are able to avoid these costs (such as through the use of proxy servers and Virtual Private Networks), most pay inflated prices for lower-standard services and some will ultimately infringe.

“The Australian Government should make clear that it is not an infringement of Australia’s copyright system for consumers to circumvent geo-blocking technology and should avoid international obligations that would preclude such practices.”


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.