It’s no coincidence that some of the most innovative and successful economies, from the USA to Israel and South Korea, have a fair use copyright exception.

Under Australian law the first question in any copyright case is “exactly how was the protected work used without permission?” The second is “did parliament think of that specific possibility and legislate an exception to make it legal?”

In a fair use system, the question becomes simply “is it fair?” The shift to concentrating on the principle of fairness means that as new ways of making culture, new technologies, or new business practices develop, copyright has room to accommodate them.

Australians rely daily on offshore technology products and services that only exist because of fair use. It’s because of fair use that we can:

  • Search the web
  • Translate between languages with a simple app
  • Store our documents in the cloud
  • Benefit from text and data mining driven solutions to problems as diverse as traffic congestion and public health resource allocation.

All these technologies involve copying existing content to serve new needs, without taking anything away from the rights holders markets. And all had to be developed outside Australia, because none of these uses of content they involve have been made legal in Australia. Australian innovators need to argue for a new exception every time they come up with a new way to use copyright material.

“A broad flexible fair use exception is a well-overdue reform that is critical to ensuring Australia is able to benefit fully from digital innovation by introducing much-needed flexibility within the law that will allow new technologies and services to be developed and brought to market in Australia.”


Fair use would support university and industry collaboration, new research techniques and the use and development of new technologies.

Recent reviews, including one commissioned by the Department of and the Arts, have concluded that fair use would be good for on the economy. It is supported by universities, startups and technology companies.

“It is not sufficient that innovative businesses ‘operate free of active threats of litigation’. They should be able to operate confident in the knowledge that they may use copyright material, if that use is fair.”


Tell the government it’s time to introduce fair use and support Australia’s economic growth and innovation.

Want to know more?
Read Chapter 6 of the latest government report to recommend the adoption of fair use, the Productivity Commission’s IP Arrangements Inquiry.
Or watch Deputy Productivity Commissioner Karen Chester present on the report at the ADA’s 2017 Copyright Forum.