Copyright modernisation downunder – a consultation paper

The Australian government has issued a consultation paper on copyright modernisation: Copyright modernisation consultation paper.

The three main issues on which consultations are being undertaken are:

  1. flexible exceptions
  2. contracting out of exceptions; and
  3. access to orphan works.

The consultation paper arises from the Government’s response to the Productivity Commission’s final report into Intellectual Property Arrangements indicating that these matters required further consideration.

Following the Productivity Commission’s report, the consultation paper sets out an interesting framework for considering how to approach these matters. According to the consultation paper, the proposals “recognise copyright’s role as part of a wider intellectual property system that is:

  • effective—The system should be effective in encouraging additional ideas and in providing incentives that ensure knowledge is disseminated through the economy and community.
  • efficient—The system should provide incentives for IP to be created at the lowest cost to society.
  • adaptable—The system should adapt to changes in economic conditions, technology, markets and costs of innovating.
  • accountable—The policies and institutions that govern the system, and the way that changes are made to them, need to be evidence-based, transparent, and reflect community values.” [1]

The consultation paper proposes seven questions:

Flexible exceptions

Question 1
To what extent do you support introducing:
• additional fair dealing exceptions? What additional purposes should be introduced and what factors should be considered in determining fairness?
• a ‘fair use’ exception? What illustrative purposes should be included and what factors should be considered in determining fairness?

Question 2
What related changes, if any, to other copyright exceptions do you feel are necessary? For example, consider changes to:
• section 200AB
• specific exceptions relating to galleries, libraries, archives and museums.

Contracting out of exceptions

Question 3
Which current and proposed copyright exceptions should be protected against contracting out?

Question 4
To what extent do you support amending the Copyright Act to make unenforceable contracting out of:
• only prescribed purpose copyright exceptions?
• all copyright exceptions?

Access to orphan works

Question 5
To what extent do you support each option and why?
• statutory exception
• limitation of remedies
• a combination of the above.

Question 6
In terms of limitation of remedies for the use of orphan works, what do you consider is the best way to limit liability? Suggested options include:
• restricting liability to a right to injunctive relief and reasonable compensation in lieu of damages (such as for non-commercial uses)
• capping liability to a standard commercial licence fee
• allowing for an account of profits for commercial use.

Question 7
Do you support a separate approach for collecting and cultural institutions, including a direct exception or other mechanism to legalise the non-commercial use of orphaned material by this sector?

In a final section of the consultation paper, a number of “ongoing concerns raised by federal cultural and collecting institutions”[2] are identified for consultation. Apparently, these “arts portfolio agencies” are concerned that copyright is being used to inhibit their ability to “provide broad-based access to their collections”. The consultation paper explains:

This includes concerns over exceptions being tied to an institution’s physical location, and thus preventing offsite supply of material. At other times, exceptions permit digitisation of content but not providing digitised content to users. Some arts portfolio agencies expend a disproportionate effort on copyright due diligence, especially when identifying and locating authors of works. This can discourage institutions from digitising, promoting or providing access to their collections. As a result, copyright law may inhibit them from adopting modern cultural institution practices and engaging with Australians online. The Department notes that, at least in some cases, better online access would involve non-commercial use or the use of copyright material with low commercial significance.

Accordingly, the consultation paper questions whether the Copyright Act 1968 should be amended by:

  • adding a fair dealing exception for libraries and archives, which may provide scope for ‘off-site access’ to be provided to those wishing to use and access certain digitised collections;
  • expanding the scope of the current fair dealing exception for ‘research or study’ to include situations where a person has a family connection to the work;
  • refining the current s 200AB flexible exception for libraries and archives, including by removing existing restrictions on the provision only applying to ‘special cases’ and where another provision of the Copyright Act could not otherwise be relied on;
  • broadening the range of libraries to which document supply provisions can apply to libraries outside Australia—this would accommodate the prevalence of overseas Australians seeking access to library material.

Submissions should be provided to the Department of Communications and the Arts by 5pm on 4 June 2018.


  1. Productivity Commission, Intellectual Property Arrangements – Final Report p. 61ff.  ?
  2. These include the National Library of Australia, the National Film and Sound Archive, the National Gallery of Australia, the National Portrait Gallery, the Australian National Maritime Museum, the Museum of Australian Democracy and the Bundanon Trust. The consultation paper does point out, in addition, that there are many state and territory institutions of similar nature which may well have similar concerns.  ?

What the EU Commissioner said on the Internet and Downloading

Commissioner Reding, the EU’s Commissioner for information society and media, has attracted a degree of attention planning an overhaul of internet downloading rules.

Her comments were part of a wide ranging speech on what the EU is doing and will be doing about broadband, access and …. So, what did she actually say?

After identifying access to digital content as the first of 4 priority issues, Ms Reding said:

1. My first and most important priority for Digital Europe is: To make it easier and more attractive to access digital content, wherever produced in Europe. The availability of attractive content that appeals to European viewers, listeners and readers will be decisive in driving further the take-up of high-speed broadband internet. It is therefore regrettable that we currently have an extremely polarised debate on the matter: While many right holders insist that every unauthorised download from the internet is a violation of intellectual property rights and therefore illegal or even criminal, others stress that access to the internet is a crucial fundamental right. Let me be clear on this: Both sides are right. The drama is that after long and often fruitless battles, both camps have now dug themselves in their positions, without any signs of opening from either side.
In the meantime, internet piracy appears to become more and more “sexy”, in particular for the digital natives already, the young generation of intense internet users between 16 and 24. This generation should become the foundation of our digital economy, of new innovation and new growth opportunities. However, Eurostat figures show that 60% of them have downloaded audiovisual content from the internet in the past months without paying. And 28% state that they would not be willing to pay.
These figures reveal the serious deficiencies of the present system. It is necessary to penalise those who are breaking the law. But are there really enough attractive and consumer-friendly legal offers on the market? Does our present legal system for Intellectual Property Rights really live up to the expectations of the internet generation? Have we considered all alternative options to repression? Have we really looked at the issue through the eyes of a 16 year old? Or only from the perspective of law professors who grew up in the Gutenberg Age? In my view, growing internet piracy is a vote of no-confidence in existing business models and legal solutions. It should be a wake-up call for policy-makers.
I f we do not, very quickly, make it easier and more consumer-friendly to access digital content, we could lose a whole generation as supporters of artistic creation and legal use of digital services. Economically, socially, and culturally, this would be a tragedy. It will therefore be my key priority to work, in cooperation with other Commissioners, on a simple, consumer-friendly legal framework for accessing digital content in Europe’s single market, while ensuring at the same time fair remuneration of creators. Digital Europe can only be built with content creators on board; and with the generation of digital natives as interested users and innovative consumers .

1. My first and most important priority for Digital Europe is: To make it easier and more attractive to access digital content, wherever produced in Europe. The availability of attractive content that appeals to European viewers, listeners and readers will be decisive in driving further the take-up of high-speed broadband internet. It is therefore regrettable that we currently have an extremely polarised debate on the matter: While many right holders insist that every unauthorised download from the internet is a violation of intellectual property rights and therefore illegal or even criminal, others stress that access to the internet is a crucial fundamental right. Let me be clear on this: Both sides are right. The drama is that after long and often fruitless battles, both camps have now dug themselves in their positions, without any signs of opening from either side.

In the meantime, internet piracy appears to become more and more “sexy”, in particular for the digital natives already, the young generation of intense internet users between 16 and 24. This generation should become the foundation of our digital economy, of new innovation and new growth opportunities. However, Eurostat figures show that 60% of them have downloaded audiovisual content from the internet in the past months without paying. And 28% state that they would not be willing to pay.

These figures reveal the serious deficiencies of the present system. It is necessary to penalise those who are breaking the law. But are there really enough attractive and consumer-friendly legal offers on the market? Does our present legal system for Intellectual Property Rights really live up to the expectations of the internet generation? Have we considered all alternative options to repression? Have we really looked at the issue through the eyes of a 16 year old? Or only from the perspective of law professors who grew up in the Gutenberg Age? In my view, growing internet piracy is a vote of no-confidence in existing business models and legal solutions. It should be a wake-up call for policy-makers.

I f we do not, very quickly, make it easier and more consumer-friendly to access digital content, we could lose a whole generation as supporters of artistic creation and legal use of digital services. Economically, socially, and culturally, this would be a tragedy. It will therefore be my key priority to work, in cooperation with other Commissioners, on a simple, consumer-friendly legal framework for accessing digital content in Europe’s single market, while ensuring at the same time fair remuneration of creators. Digital Europe can only be built with content creators on board; and with the generation of digital natives as interested users and innovative consumers .

She then gave 2 examples.

The first was facilitating online licensing across all 27 member states. [Why stop there? As Prof. Gans has pointed out, albeit inaccurately under the rubric of parallel imports, this is a global problem.]

The second is to create a modern set of rules to encourage the digitisation of books:

Let us be very clear: if we do not reform our European copyright rules on orphan works and libraries swiftly, digitisation and the development of attractive content offers will not take place in Europe, but on the other side of the Atlantic. Only a modern set of consumer-friendly rules will enable Europe’s content to play a strong part in the digitisation efforts that has already started all around the globe. (The Commissioner’s emphasis)

Read the full text of the Commissioner’s speech here (the downloading wars start about 80% of the way ‘down’).

The idea of looking at the issue from the eyes of 16 year olds, rather than people who grew up in the 50s and 60s, is rather Lessig-ian (watch the Ted Talk video).

Bit of a stretch, blaming the law professors though!

Meanwhile, the very same day, Euro publishers, demonstrating the “us” versus “them” mentality Commissioner Reding criticised, took the opportunity to open another front on their war against Google, linking and aggregating. Publishers’ announcement and Hamburg declaration via here.

post-publication postscript: Chris Anderson from Wired on “Free”, reviewed in NYT.