Many of you will be wondering why the idea of copyright change is so important and why organisations like the ADG should even bother to have an opinion about this topic. This all stemmed from the Australian Law Reform Commission Review into copyright last year. It’s recommendation to completely change our copyright system from a Fair Dealing to Fair Use system would turn the rights and incomes of anyone producing audio visual content upside down. In brief, it would take away from anyone creating visual content a major part of his or her income. It would also open the door to large corporations to use material without obtaining the right to do so and deny them the right to make money from that content.
This seems unfair as many of you rely on exploiting your copyright whether it be in contracts or though payments for its use throughout your lifetime.
One of the most disturbing examples of how this system might be applied in Australia is the current case in the US where The Authors Guild is challenging the right of Google to digitise books without the owners permission or any remuneration. Google claims that it is Fair Use. In a recent court hearing the Supreme Court of the US upheld the right of Google to digitise books based on Fair use. As the author of the article on this case said:
“In the Authors Guild case, Judge Chin ruled that the Google Book project did not infringe copyright as it was covered by a fair use. There is no question that in the absence of fair use, Google would have been liable for copyright infringement. As found by Judge Chin, Google digitally reproduced millions of copyrighted books. It made digital copies available for its Library Project partners to download for any uses that did not violate copyright laws. Google also displayed snippets from the books to the public. It did all of this without license or permission from the copyright owners. Google’s only defense was fair use.”
The Copyright Council of Australia (of which the ADG is a member and I am a board member) has been arguing against the introduction of such a system and it is reassuring to hear the new Attorney General, speaking at the ADG Conference, assure us that he would protect our right to ownership and control of our creative material.
Many of the arguments for Fair Use come from large educational institutions and companies like Google. Their argument is for Fair Use across the board so they can use currently copyrighted material without permission and at no cost.
We recognise that the world has changed and that new technologies mean their needs to be new ways of licensing material and allowing access. But the current system does not stop the public from copying material for their private use. It does,however, stop them from exploiting someone else’s work for their own profit and misrepresenting that work without permission. So yes, there will need to be change to allow for advancements in technologies but the basic principal of creative rights need to be protected. As an old saying goes "please don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater."