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Australian Government’s Proposed Changes to Copyright Law

019 Dan HollowayA few weeks ago, in our regular news column, we mentioned the Australian Productivity Commission’s consultation on proposed revisions to intellectual property law. As the consultation deadline of June 3rd nears, and the realization of exactly what these proposed changes would involve grows, authors concerns are mounting.

  • The removal of parallel importation rights could have a disastrous effect on the ability of publishers to invest in Australian creativity.
  • Amendments to the “fair dealing” treatment of copyright will create an uncertain legal climate that will disadvantage both users and creators of copyright material.
  • Changes to the term of copyright protection for authors will reduce the ability of authors to draw revenue from their creative output.

This latter proposal, particularly the reduction of the copyright term to 15 to 25 years after publication (instead of 70 years after death), is causing particular concern. These changes affect not just the cultural landscape for Australia but for all writers and, indeed, readers.

“It is beyond belief that any government should so blatantly try to erode copyright ,” says Orna Ross, Director of the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi). “Many authors take many years to build a reputation and there are a great number of books that do not come into public consciousness for years, or even decades, after they were written. Under this proposed ruling, JK Rowling would no longer own the rights to the first Harry Potter book next year.

“Much has changed in the author space in recent years but what remains constant is that authors’ right to earn money from our work rests on copyright. The threats outlined in these proposals are severe, immediate and very real. Authors, and all who care about writing and reading, must unit to resist them.”Orna Ross Headshot Black and White

In this speech given to the Australian Book Industry Awards in Sydney on 19 May, the Tasmanian author Richard Flanagan said the Australian governments’ record “drips with a contempt for writers and writing” and explains why these proposals are so pernicious.

As an organization, ALLi  supports Book Create Australia in their campaign to withdraw this proposal, in order to safeguard the continued access to fair compensation for authors. We would like officially to express our solidarity with our Australian members and all writers who stand to be affected by these proposed changes.

How You Can Help

  • We encourage all those who are eligible to do so to submit responses before the June 3rd deadline. You can find the full draft of the proposals, and details of how to contribute to the consultation here.
  • Join this petition from the campaign Books Create Australiar and follow the campaign on social media with the #BooksCreate hashtag
  • For a more detailed overview of the way the proposed changes will impact on publishing, literature, and the creative industry, download information from Books Create Australia here.

 

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16 Responses to Australian Government’s Proposed Changes to Copyright Law

  1. Mike Stop Continues April 21, 2017 at 10:54 pm #

    Remember that copyright wasn’t extended by individual artists but by major corporations. And they did so without thinking of our benefit but of their own.

    A major corporation suffers none of the disadvantages of long copyright periods, but all of the advantages. They hold world mythology under lock and key, and they have the money to buy whatever upstart individual creators works they want to. But what if one of us wanted to do a story featuring Mickey Mouse or the ninja turtles or Luke Skywalker? We have neither the permission or the money.

    Do we really benefit from this system? 99% of IP makes all of its money within the first five years, but remains under lock and key for Life + 70 years. Instead of Mickey Mouse, ask why it should be that you can’t use retired characters with dead creators like Gumby or Doctor Moreau? It doesn’t make sense.

    Twenty-five year copyrights are fair. They give the creator time to make money, while allowing a child whose worldview was shaped by that IP to grow up and tell stories featuring characters who are essentially the polytheistic pantheon of their lives.

    There are many creators who make plenty of money while forgoing their copyrights. See Cory Doctorow as a clear literary example.

    Remember that long copyrights deprive you of more than they offer. Greek drama persists today because their creators had the opportunity to perfect their culture’s stories. In the year our version of Medea was first performed, six other versions of the myth were also performed. Yet the best rose to the top.

    Why shouldn’t artists have the opportunity to create Star Wars stories as they imagine they should be? Why shouldn’t we allow the different cultures of the world to decide whose version of the story they like best? Imagine a world where there were dozens of authors publishing Doctor Who stories filling the niche of those who want a black doctor, a female doctor, a jewish lesbian doctor, etc. Just think about how much faster the wheels of progress would turn if control of our gods weren’t controlled by major corporations, but by the members of our society itself.

    I know its easy to feel like losing your copyright is like losing your livelihood, but it isn’t. And what little you gain will be replaced by plenty more.

  2. JD Revene May 29, 2016 at 3:23 am #

    The proposal may be off the table for now – during an election campaign – but the current Government has a track record of doing things once elected that it said it would not do: the copyright term amendment would surely lead to Australian authors choosing to publish their works overseas, and I cannot see how that could be a good thing for Australia.

    • Orna Ross May 31, 2016 at 3:26 pm #

      I completly agree JD. A watchful eye needed

  3. James Osborne May 26, 2016 at 2:35 pm #

    This is not in the best interests of authors and other creators of intellectual property. There is no questions it is inspired and is being promoted by those who would steal the works of others for their own profit, i.e., greedy big business.

    • Orna Ross May 26, 2016 at 3:40 pm #

      And a misunderstanding of the importance of creative industries to a vibrant economy, it would seem. Thanks James!

  4. Elisabeth Storrs May 26, 2016 at 2:03 pm #

    At least some sanity has prevailed. The prime minister announced yesterday that there will be no attempt to legislate a reduction in the term of copyright as it would breach various international treaties. Parallel importation and fair use remains on the table.

    • Orna Ross May 26, 2016 at 3:39 pm #

      That particular proposal was beyond belief — but much that is still of concern. Let us know if there is anything more we can do at this late stage!

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