The Federal Government’s exclusion of copyright reform in its National Innovation and Science Agenda is “disappointing”, according to the Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA).
The EFA – a national organisation representing the rights of internet users – has been campaigning for the introduction of a broad and flexible ‘fair use’ exception into Australian copyright law as a means of driving digital innovation.
‘Fair use’ is a defence to copyright infringement that analyses, via a number of principles, whether use of certain copyrighted content was ‘fair’.
The notion was previously considered in 2013 following proposals from the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) that a fair use exception be added to the Copyright Act 1968 as part of a report on Copyright and the Digital Economy.
The report’s case for fair use was based on several arguments, including its assistance in innovation and its promotion of public interest and transformative uses for existing content.
Fair use also better aligns with reasonable consumer expectations and is compatible with moral rights and international law, the report said.
The EFA has also called on the Attorney-General to improve upon the limited safe harbour protections currently available within the Copyright Act.
The AG Department is currently implementing the results of the Marrakesh Treaty – a global agreement facilitated by the world intellectual property organisation (WIPO) that allows the transformation of content (without the need for explicit permission from the copyright holder) to enable the reproduction and distribution of copyrighted works in a format accessible by the visually impaired.
EFA chair David Cake said the Marrakesh Treaty represented a significant step towards a broad flexible fair use exception.
“Australia’s Copyright Act is outdated and no longer fit for purpose in the digital age,” said Cake.
“A broad flexible fair use exception is central to copyright law in the United States, Singapore, Israel and other nations that are leading the world in digital innovation.
“If the government is serious about digital innovation, they need to move to implement fair use, and to fix up the safe harbour protections within the Copyright Act, without further delay.”