Copyright law reform

The issue

Australian copyright law needs a major overhaul. It hasn't kept up with new technologies and it doesn't recognise the way people are sharing information online, especially through social media.

The current copyright act dates from 1968, before the internet, PCs, ebooks, search engines and online stores. It has been updated piecemeal as new technologies have been developed and it’s now a real mess. For example:

  • Australian schools pay $80 million a year in copyright fees, but some of it is for stuff, like tourism maps, that is free on the web. Silly thing: a teacher can write a poem on a blackboard for free, but if they write the same poem on an electronic whiteboard, they have to pay a copyright fee.
  • You can copy a VHS tape to your tablet, but not a DVD. 
  • You can watch a clip on YouTube, but you can’t include it in a presentation.
  • You can’t share other people’s photos and gifs on your Facebook page if you don’t have permission from the copyright holder.
  • You can back up your own email attachments and shared pictures, but not emails and attachments someone sends to you.
  • You can record a TV program to watch later, but you can’t watch it and record it at the same time.
  • Libraries can make a copy of a work for preservation purposes, but only after it has been lost, stolen or damaged.

Our current copyright law turns honest people into unwitting criminals.

Our position

The law currently give us Fair Dealing, when what we want is Fair Use.

Fair Dealing and exceptions are very prescriptive and don’t give us much wriggle room.

Fair Use would be more flexible, technology-neutral and would allow people to fit in with the spirit of the copyright law rather than being bound by rules that end up being plain silly.

Find out more about the international position for libraries here.

What we are doing

Cooking for Copyright 31 July 2015

We're campaigning for unpublished works to have the same copyright terms as published works.

Copyright Law reform

We are working through the Australian Libraries Copyright Committee and the Australian Digital Alliance to lobby the Attorney General for changes to Copyright Law.

Trans-Pacific Partnership proposals 

In October 2014 we expressed our concern through the media about a second leaked draft of the Intellectual Property (IP) chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which would will lead to internet censorship. Wikileaks published the updated draft chapter on IP which forms part of the TPP.

The TPP is an economic trade agreement that will, if agreed, be a pathway to realising a vision of a free trade area in the Asia-Pacific. The IP chapter includes copyright issues and digital rights. Proposals in the leaked document would bind participating nations, including Australia, to tougher copyright laws than now exist under current national laws.The draft proposals could criminalise some online activity, lead to invasions of Australians’ privacy and would impact our ability to share and collaborate online.

We are opposed to censorship and are very skeptical about proposals for censoring or filtering the internet. Information belongs to everyone and this is the foundation of a fair, open and democratic society. Freedom can be protected in a democratic society only if its citizens have unrestricted access to information and ideas.

Unfortunately longer copyright terms are still on the table. Longer copyright terms simply mean it is harder to get valuable resources out of library stacks and into the hands of our patrons.

It hinders libraries' world-class digitisation projects, risks fragile items and unnecessarily locks away knowledge, ideas and culture. Longer copyright terms are also bad for the economy; our last increase of copyright terms, imposed with the Australia-US Free Trade Agreement, cost the country $88 million per year.

Marrakesh Treaty 

After some delay, we were pleased that the Australian Government signed the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons who are Blind, Visually Impaired, or otherwise Print Disabled on 24 June, 2014. We had been campaigning for this for some months following the adoption of the Treaty on 28 June 2013.

The Attorney-General’s department has been consulting on the best way to implement the treaty.  The Australian Libraries Copyright Committee made a strong submission focussing on the rights to access knowledge and libraries as key facilitators. 

How you can help

Copyright Law reform will be coming up as a major issue in 2015 as the government reviews the current legislation in the light of the Australian Law Reform Commission report of 2014.

FAIR will also keep on top of the progress of the Trans-Pacific Partnership proposals and online copyright infringement discussion and we'll let you know when action is needed. 

Share your story 

Do you want to tell us about your experiences in managing the in and outs of copyright? Please drop us a line or post your story on our Facebook page. Also if you have used one of our tools or suggestions, tell us the results of your actions. For example, if you have written a letter, made comment in the media, or received a response on a issue, please let us know and then we can keep the FAIR community informed via our newsletter.