Bureaucrats create copyright havoc

Bureaucrats create copyright havoc

Chief executive of the Copyright Agency ADAM SUCKLING slams the Productivity Commission’s treatment of creatives interests in favour of big company.

Until now, copyright might have been thought of as the dry but necessary detail of creativity – but the federal government’s Productivity Commission has taken a massive swipe at the Australian creative industry – including media companies and journalists.

The Productivity Commission has suggested we throw out our fit-for-purpose copyright system and replace it with a complex US doctrine that has enabled profitable enterprises in that country to use the hard-earned work of others for little payment or for free.

The economists at the commission are holding a candle for a business model that is based on the use of Australian content for free. That’s not innovation, that’s a rip-off.

Of the 380 submissions to the commission’s inquiry, only 38 supported a change while more than 75 per cent of submissions opposed the recommendations.

And the recommendations seem to be straight out of the US Big Tech playbook, and, if adopted, will wreak havoc on Australia’s creative community.

The Google Books case is an example of this. The issue was fought through the courts for more than a decade only to land in Google’s favour – allowing the giant tech company to copy 20 million books without permission – in fact, without even buying a single book.

But in these days of globalisation, perhaps it’s time to stop and think – what do we want for the next generation? What is important to protect?

Don’t Australian artists, journalists, authors, musicians and filmmakers deserve the right to receive fair payment for their work?

The Productivity Commission appears to treat the creative industries with disdain. In its draft report, it declared an author’s copyright in their work ideally should be as little as 15 years in length. The final report still contends copyright is far too long, claiming the commercial life of a work to be just five years. Outraged authors, such as Anna Funder, Richard Flanagan, Hazel Edwards and Tom Keneally, whose works continue to be sold, in original and adapted forms, ask why, if their works keep resonating with audiences, should they sacrifice income?

Australian copyright laws have been developed and updated regularly – making our copyright system one of the world’s most admired. Why? Because our blanket copyright licences allow schools, universities and governments to copy and share everything published in the world for less than the cost of a book for every student, and they do – some 1.5 billion pages of valuable teaching content, including newspaper articles, every year.

That money is paid to the Copyright Agency and we distribute it to our 43,000 members who are the owners of the copyright material – such as publishers, journalists, book illustrators and artists.

These fair payments generate new Australian-made content for both our students and students around the world. For instance, anyone with school-age children will have heard of our member 3P Learning’s Mathletics or Reading Eggs.

Their copyright royalties underpin their investment in new digital learning platforms – that are used the world over.

In fact, PWC estimates that moving to the US model would cost our economy more than $1 billion – because there would be less Australian-produced content, more job losses and higher copyright litigation costs.

A robust copyright framework is a key driver of investment in Australian stories and content. The push to destroy this framework will rob our Australian creators of fair payment for the hard work they do, and imperil the jobs of emerging Australian creatives.

All major publishing and media companies, as well as groups representing writers, musicians, filmmakers and visual artists, believe that policymakers in Canberra should reject the Productivity Commission’s recommendations that will do nothing for Australian consumers but will have untold consequences for the creative industries.

There is room for improvement in copyright but let’s remember that Australia’s creative ecosystem produces books, songs, newspapers, movies and TV shows that we love.

These products are not free to produce, and neither should they be free to consume.

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