It has been revealed that the Copyright Agency, the body tasked with collecting copyright payments from universities, schools and other public institutions, has been lining its own pockets with fees collected for orphan works. Instead of the money being used to encourage new works by authors and journalists, it has been secretly allocated to wage a campaign against the Productivity Commission’s proposal to introduce a fair use copyright provision in Australia.
“Whilst we advocate for users to have the right to copy works for non-commercial purposes, what the Copyright Agency has done is essentially theft, going by the standards rights-holders usually label others.” said Simon Frew, President of Pirate Party Australia. “We believe that collecting money from educational institutions for quoting works should be done away with, as proposed by the Productivity Commission. However, whilst it is part of the copyright system authors deserve the full amount collected, or the institutions should get a refund. These funds were collected to support creative efforts, not to bank roll lawyers and self serving marketing campaigns.”
“Milking educational institutions for income, refusing to hold it for the rightful recipients of the money and then using it to wage a political campaign against those institutions is villainous,” Mr Frew continued. “It is, at best, an attempt to defend the Copyright Agency’s own relevance, if fair use provisions were introduced into copyright law, their role in collecting and distributing copyright money would diminish.”
Australia has many of the worst aspects of the US copyright system, introduced as part of the Australia US Free Trade Agreement, without any of the benefits. Fair use allows for wider use of copyrighted items than exists under the Australian fair dealing system, which includes quotation rights for educational purposes. The restrictive fair dealing system in Australia restricts what is possible for new technology companies and digital innovators. A company like Google would be sued out of existence before they could get off the ground in Australia’s current regulatory environment.
“We call on the federal government to enact fair use provisions into Australian copyright law as a matter of urgency. Innovation is being hampered by the vague and overbearing fair dealing provisions in Australian copyright law” he concluded.