Australians break copyright law everyday. Do you ever:
- Share photos you didn’t take on social media?
- Repost or create memes or mashups?
- Back-up your DVDs?
- Forward an email?
- Photograph a billboard or mural?
If you have done any of the above, it’s likely you’ve infringed Australia’s archaic copyright law.
You may not realise how often this occurs – when consumer group CHOICE surveyed Australians they found that there was a high level of confusion about what was legal and what was not. That’s unsurprising, as the law is currently full of technicalities that make no sense. Want to backup a VHS? That’s fine. Backup a DVD? That’s infringement.
Fair use is a rule that exists in the US, Israel, South Korea and other countries that says it’s ok to use copyright material in ways that are fair. Adding it to our copyright system would legalise everyday uses that don’t harm the copyright owner. It would also help our schools, universities, libraries, museums, galleries, start-ups and creators. Fair use is good for you, and good for Australia.
Learn more about how fair use is good for you.
Australian schools, TAFES and universities are all strong supporters of fair use.
Fair use will:
- Encourage the use of new technologies in the classroom;
- Let universities compete on a level playing field with their overseas competitors;
- Encourage collaboration between education, community and industry groups;
- Enable researchers to use cutting edge research techniques such as text and data mining; and
- Save $15 million currently wasted on freely available internet materials and orphan works.
Learn more about why fair use is good for educators
International experience shows that creators benefit from fair use.
Fair use will:
- Give new freedom to artists;
- Give all kinds of artistic practice the same protection as journalism or satire;
- Support documentary and other filmmakers by enabling them to use short excerpts of music, text or other films;
- Allow poets to draw from existing texts in their new work;
- Enable dance companies to recreate historic choreography with their own contemporary takes;
- Open up the historical and cultural collections of Australia’s libraries, archives, museums and galleries for inspiration and as source material;
- Give Australian creators the same flexibility to create as their overseas peers.
Learn more about why fair use is good for creators
Economic reports by the Productivity Commission, Ernst & Young and Lateral Economics have all found that fair use would be a good thing for the Australian economy.
Fair use will:
- Allow Australian companies to host cloud computing, undertake web caching and other essential business processes;
- Enable companies to engage in and create cutting edge technologies such as data mining and machine learning;
- Allow Australian startups and universities to compete on a level playing field with their international peers; and
- Open up access to millions of valuable orphan works, which can’t be used because their copyright owners can’t be found.
Learn more about why we need fair use to fuel innovation
The Australian government is currently considering its response to the Productivity Commission's IP inquiry. One of the central recommendations of that inquiry was the introduction of fair use. As the Commission observed:
“Australia’s current exceptions for fair dealing are too narrow and prescriptive, do not reflect the way people today consume and use content in the digital world, and do not accommodate new legitimate uses of copyright material…Introducing the principles–based fair use exception as Australia’s system of user rights, would go some way to redress the imbalance between copyright holders, consumers and intermediate users”
Australia’s copyright law cannot continue to assume fair uses of copyright works are illegal until parliament has the chance to pass legislation allowing them. We know this doesn’t work – it took until 2006 for parliament to pass laws to legalise home taping – by which time most people’s VCRs were gathering dust in the spare room.
If Australia wants a world class education system, modern economy, flourishing cultural sector and laws that make sense then we need to tell the government to introduce fair use now.