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Copyright reforms strike a balance in Oz

Fairer for users but tougher on pirates

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The Australian Government has announced it will introduce major changes to the Australian Copyright Act.

Attorney-General Philip Ruddock said the reforms would make laws fairer for consumers and tougher on copyright pirates.

"Copyright is important and should be respected," Mr Ruddock said. "That is why the Government is updating our laws to keep pace with technology."

"Everyday consumers shouldn’t be treated like copyright pirates. Copyright pirates should be not treated like everyday consumers."

Changes to the law include legalising time shifting and format shifting, allowing consumers to:

  • Copy music, newspapers and books from 'personal collections' onto iPods and mp3 players.
  • Record TV and radio programs to 'time shift' once at a later time. This exception will not allow a recording to be used over and over again or be distributed to others.
  • Schools, universities, libraries and other cultural institutions will be free to use copyright material for non-commercial purposes.
  • New exceptions will be created for people with disabilities to allow access to copyright materials.
  • Copyrighted material will be available for use for parody or satire.

However, the amendments will also increase surveillance, fines and damages for internet piracy (file sharing) including on the spot fines, proceeds of crime remedies, and a change in presumptions in litigation to make it easier to establish copyright piracy – for large scale piracy the content owners may no longer have to establish each breach of copyright law.

They will also remove the one per cent cap on the royalties paid by broadcasters to record companies, allowing record companies to negotiate the terms on which music can be played on the radio (good luck public radio).

The format shifting provisions do not include a general right to make back up copies, any new copy must be in a new format. They do not apply to computer programs. Further more, on the sale of the original item, all other copies must be deleted.

For the time being it will still be illegal to format shift audio visual material. This will be reviewed in two years’ time and a decision made then as to whether the scope can be expanded to digital audio visual materials in a way which complies with international obligations.

In relation to DRM: "The Government is still considering this issue of copy protection."

Research will be undertaken by the Australian Institute of Criminology on the nature and the extent of piracy and counterfeiting in Australia and how best to respond to the problem.

A draft exposure bill will be released soon to enable further consultation with stakeholders.

View the press release here

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