Government commits to improve access and strengthen user rights in response to PC Inquiry

Australians will have better access to orphan works and government funded research under commitments made by the Government in its response to the Productivity Commission’s IP Inquiry, released 25 August 2017.

The Inquiry report, which was released to the public late last year, called for important changes to update our copyright system for the digital age. These include:

  • introducing a modern fair use provision;
  • extending the existing ISP safe harbor provisions to other online service providers, like public libraries;
  • providing open access to government funded research within a year of its publication;
  • limiting liability for those using orphan works; and
  • protecting copyright exceptions from being overridden by contracts and technological protection measures (TPMs).

The Australian Libraries Copyright Committee greets the government’s positive response to these recommendations as a good start to the implementation of vital changes to our copyright system.

The Government has committed to consultation processes in the next year to explore the best way of implementing the orphan works, contract and TPM, and fair use recommendations. It has also supported in principle the expansion of the copyright safe harbours, on which it is already consulting.

Importantly, the Government has fully supported the Commission’s recommendation that Australian governments should implement an open access policy for publicly funded research, ensuring it is freely available to the public within 12 months of its publication. The Government will require all publicly funded research agencies to adopt policies consistent with this mandate, and encourages the States and Territories to do the same.

Particularly encouraging is the Government’s commitment to ensuring the copyright system is flexible enough to accommodate the rapid technological changes of the modern era, and acknowledgement that our current system often prohibits reasonable activities that should be allowed.

The ALCC also welcomes the Government’s announcement on Friday of a review of the governance arrangements for collecting societies, another of the Commission’s recommendations. Collecting societies play a central role in Australia’s copyright system, but their actions and decisions are subject to very little external scrutiny or oversight. We hope this review will lead to reporting and administrative mechanisms that meet international best practice.

Overall, Australia’s librarians and archivists feel that the Government’s response to the Productivity Commission Inquiry shows that it is taking the problems caused by our current outdated copyright system seriously, and seeking to ensure that all views are listened to in this important policy area.

Media Contact
Jessica Coates: jessica@digital.org.au