Poorly conceived, woefully inadequate and riddled with failings. That’s the Australian music industry’s verdict on the federal government’s plans to push through a controversial amendment to the Copyright Act in the digital age.
The confusingly-named Copyright Amendment (Disability Access and Other Measures) Bill 2015 contains provisions which could extend “safe harbour” immunity to the likes of Google and Facebook for the sharing of copyright-infringing material on their networks.
The issue has been bubbling away for some months, and is back in the spotlight on news the government is planning to set up a Senate committee to determine whether its amendments will indeed facilitate content piracy. The inquiry will reportedly launch after the government introduces the Bill into Parliament after March 20, according to The Australian.
The disputed Schedule 2 of the Bill “does not reflect the current digital environment and will have the effect of introducing a safe harbour scheme which is out of step with international best practice and will result in Australia introducing old law which is not fit for purpose,” says Vanessa Hutley, General Manager Music Rights Australia, in a statement issued to The Industry Observer.
It remains something of a mystery why the government is pushing for the safe harbour changes, which rights-holders from across the content, media and sporting industries warn could significantly damage Australia’s creative community.
Delta Goodrem, Cold Chisel and INXS were among a cadre of some 200 artists who last year joined forces in a starry campaign to drive this point home. And in a rare cross-industry show of unity, entertainment and media organizations from the AFL, to News Corp, Australian Screen Association and others have declared those safe harbour provisions would be exploited.
In a statement issued last September, Music Rights Australia called on the Government to immediately drop the safe harbour proposal and engage in meaningful consultation on a better solution. But that apparently didn’t happen.
With respect to Schedule 2, Hutley said this week, the Government has “failed to articulate its policy position” and “failed to consult with the creative content community” on the issue. “This failure has resulted in a proposal which is poorly conceived and woefully inadequate to address the obvious failings of the current safe harbour scheme.”
ARIA also weighed in. “As currently drafted,” the trade body’s CEO Dan Rosen tells The Industry Observer in a prepared statement, “Schedule 2 will result in the safe harbours being exploited for commercial gain at the expense of the music community and other creative content owners. This has been the experience in the US and EU where it been used by big tech companies to undermine the commercial market so that music is significantly undervalued and underpaid. Accordingly, the safe harbour regimes are under review in both the US and EU to fix this fundamental problem.”
Rosen, speaking on behalf of the music biz, calls on the Government to commission the Department of Communications and the Arts to undertake an “evidence-based review of any proposed safe harbour reform.”
The MRA’s Hutley says a breakthrough can be found through sound policy and “meaningful consultation” which “must take place outside the pressure cooker environment of a Senate committee process.”
According to The Australian, Google and Facebook have lobbied the government for the provision on the argument they’re equipped to self-police their own networks. “Facebook takes intellectual property rights seriously and we have robust measures in place to help protect intellectual property rights,” says a spokesperson for the social media giant.