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Oz to review copyright law for digital age

Law Reform Commission asked to consider social networks, time-shifting

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Australia will review its Copyright Act to ensure the they serve the nation in the digital age.

The review, announced by Federal Attorney-General Nicola Roxon, will “reflect the fact that technology is constantly evolving and testing the boundaries of copyright law," Roxon said.

The eventual review will be handled by the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC), with last week's announcement commencing the process by issuing draft terms of reverence and calling for community input to frame the exact items to be considered.

"We want to ensure this review has enough scope to look at the key areas of copyright so we're calling on stakeholders to provide us with their feedback before the ALRC begins its work."

The draft terms of reference state that the review should consider “the need for copyright law to provide an appropriate balance between the rights of creators and the rights, interests and expectations of users and the public so as to foster creativity and innovation and promote cultural development.” The review should also note “the importance of the digital economy and the opportunities for innovation leading to national economic and cultural development created by the emergence of new digital technologies.”

Another item for consideration is how copyright law can “facilitate legitimate use of copyright works to create and deliver new products and services of public benefit,” while also allowing “...legitimate non-commercial use of copyright works for uses on the internet such as social networking.”

The announcement draft also mentions that the review will “... examine the adequacy and appropriateness of a broad range of exceptions in the Copyright Act, including time shifting.”

Fiona Phillips, Executive Director of the Australian Copyright Council, said the terms of reference are very broad, but added “Importantly they acknowledge the role of copyright in fostering creativity and innovation.”

But don't expect reform any time soon: the ALRC has until November 2013 to publish its report. ®

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