The Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) is a government agency that reviews all Australia’s laws to ensure they are equitable and keep up with the times. In recent years it has addressed the many legal issues raised by the digital economy.
Chief amongst these is copyright, which is still largely based on laws originating in the 18th century. Copyright has become a significant issue globally since the Internet and the digitisation of content has made conventional distribution methods obsolete.
The ALRC has now released a Discussion Paper for the copyright inquiry – Copyright and the Digital Economy – containing 42 proposals regarding reform of the copyright. It can be downloaded at https://www.alrc.gov.au/publications
Under the Terms of Reference for its inquiry into copyright, the ALRC is considering whether exceptions and statutory licences in the Copyright Act 1968 are adequate and appropriate in the digital environment and whether further exceptions should be recommended. The ALRC is seeking feedback on the proposals.
ALRC Commissioner for the Copyright Inquiry, Professor Jill McKeough, said “The ALRC has been very pleased with the response of the community to this inquiry. We received 295 submissions to our Issues Paper, and have also had the opportunity to meet face to face with many people with an interest in this Inquiry. In releasing this Discussion Paper we are calling for submissions to inform the final stage of our deliberations leading up to the final Report.”
The ALRC has suggested five framing principles for the inquiry: acknowledging and respecting authorship and creation; maintaining incentives for creation of works and other subject matter; promoting fair access to and wide dissemination of content; providing rules that are flexible and adaptive to new technologies; and providing rules that are consistent with Australia’s international obligations. Any recommendations the ALRC finally makes will be weighed against these principles.
Commissioner McKeough stated “The reforms proposed include the introduction of a broad, flexible exception for fair use of copyright material and the consequent repeal of many of the current exceptions in the Copyright Act, so that the copyright regime becomes more flexible and adaptable. An alternative model, should fair use not be enacted, suggests the addition of new fair dealing exceptions, recognising fairness factors.
“Other reform proposals relate to the replacement of certain statutory licences with voluntary licensing more suited to the digital environment; the use of orphan works; provisions relating to preservation of copyright material by cultural institutions; and contracting out of the operation of copyright exceptions. Two alternative proposals relating to the scheme for the retransmission of free-to-air broadcasts are set out for comment from stakeholders, in addition to other proposals relating to broadcasting.”
The Discussion Paper is available free of charge from the ALRC website, www.alrc.gov.au. The ALRC strongly encourages online submissions directly through the ALRC website where an online submission form facilitates responses to individual questions. Written submissions can also be posted, faxed or emailed to the ALRC.