Following criticism that the government did not conduct reasonable consultations with the music industry and certain stakeholders, the Turnbull Government’s copyright reform Bill has been hit with a setback.
Schedule 2 of the Copyright Amendment (Disability Access and Other Measures) Bill 2017, which included the proposal to expand safe harbours – and royally mess with artists’ rights – was dropped before an introduction to parliament yesterday.
The music industry had been lobbying to have the Bill go through to parliament, with the exclusion of Schedule 2, which relates to the expansion of safe harbours.
The initial Bill was proposed as having three parts. Schedules 1 and 3, which relate to (a) streamlining of statutory educational licences, and (b) disability access, are being progressed but Schedule 2 has now been removed.
In making the announcement, Senator the Hon. Mitch Fifield said: “Provisions relating to safe harbour were removed from the Bill before its introduction to enable the Government to further consider feedback received on this proposal whilst not delaying the passage of other important reforms.”
The move to consult the industry before undertaking any reform follows a submission by Music Rights Australia in February last year, which asked the government to set out evidence in support of the proposal “which stands up to external scrutiny.”
While the Bill is part of the Government’s plans to work collaboratively with stakeholders to modernise copyright law, should Schedule 2 be introduced in its current form, copyright will be largely undervalued. Tech giants like Google and its streaming platform YouTube doesn’t currently believe it needs a license for the music it hosts because of features like YouTube’s monetisation and takedown tools.
Unfortunately, while takedown requests are a time consuming measure for artists, publishers and labels, Google is generating revenue from hosting the works.
In other words, YouTube is protected by safe harbours in the US but locally, it has a license for the music under current, narrower safe harbour provisions.
Crucially though, if the now-dropped Schedule 2 of the Copyright Amendment Bill was passed, those provisions would have been expanded and provide protection to sites like YouTube, meaning rights holders would have less negotiating power when it comes time to re-ink those licenses. This could lead to further copyright infringement for artists.