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ACCC calls for liberalised copyright in Oz

Good sense breaks out

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Australia’s Competition and Consumer Commission is siding with citizens over copyright holders – at least a little bit.

In its submission to an inquiry into this country’s copyright law, the competition regulator suggests that a service such as Optus’ TV Now – banned by the High Court after a bitter battle with the country’s major football codes – isn’t such a bad thing after all.

The Australian Law Reform Commission is conducting the inquiry, with the stated aim of bringing copyright law into line with the digital economy.

Discussing the TV Now case, which concerned the legality of a PVR in the cloud, the ACCC asserts that there’s little difference between a consumer using their own PVR to legally record a free-to-air television program, or engaging a third party to perform the same service for them.

The regulator also suggests that the blunt-instrument of copyright law is a bit of a crutch in the hands of lazy businesses – or, in its more diplomatic language, “copyright can, in some circumstances, act as a disincentive to copyright owners to innovate”.

“Copyright owners have, in some circumstances been slow to adopt market based solutions in favour of enforcement of copyright, where consumer expectations and practices have shifted and have, led to breaches of copyright”, the submission states.

In a statement that’s certain to infuriate rent-seekers copyright holders, the ACCC explicitly states that freedom to make personal copies should be liberalised: “in the absence of persuasive economic evidence of harm to incentives to copyright holders, the copying of legally acquired copyright material for private and domestic use should be more freely permitted.”

It might even be suggested that the competition watchdog isn’t persuaded by the kinds of economic studies routinely trotted out by copyright owners to bolster their own belief that their rents need expanding: “there is a lack of economic research regarding the magnitude of transaction costs of licensing in the Australian context, especially regarding these costs in relation to the digital economy”, the submission states.

The full directory of submissions to the inquiry is here. ®

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