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Publishers concerned by proposal to change Australia's copyright law

Concern over proposed 'fair use' exceptions for copyright in Australia

On 14 February 2014, the IPA and the Australian Publishers Association condemned a report from the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) which proposes introducing a 'fair use' exception into Australian copyright law.

The ALRC report argues that Australia should imitate the United States by including a fair use exception which could be invoked by those accused of copyright infringement. Among other activities which could be classified as 'fair use' are research or study, criticism or review, news reporting, quotation, non-commercial private use, technical use, library or archive, education, and access for people with disabilities. A list of "fairness" factors would be considered, such as the purpose of the use, the nature of the material, the amount of the material and the effect on the value of the material.

Australia's Attorney-General George Brandis has described the fair use defence as "controversial", explaining that "it is the Government's strong view that the fundamental principles of intellectual property law that protect the rights of content creators have not changed, merely because of the emergence of new media and platforms."

IPA Policy Director José Borghino said the ALRC report posed "real concerns for publishers. Even in the USA, where fair use has an established judicial history, it does not offer certainty for investors in content or anyone else. To transpose 'fair use' into a totally different case-law environment would be wrongheaded in the extreme. Currently, we have a productive balance between users' requirements and the needs of publishers and creators to re-invest in high-quality resources."

Michael Gordon-Smith, Chief Executive of the Australian Publishers Association, said "the principles of copyright are independent of technology and fundamental to creative work. There are already provisions for 'fair dealing' in Australian copyright law. If the very broad exception proposed by the ALRC were adopted, it would risk substantial damage to businesses that invest in innovation and produce intellectual property in pursuit of uncertain and unlikely benefits."

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