'Fair use' changes to Copyright Act proposed

Bec Fary / July 08, 2013 05:01 PM

The Australian Law Reform Commission is considering changes to ‘fair use’ copyright laws. 

In a discussion paper, Copyright and the Digital Economy, the ALRC questions whether current copyright law fits a digital media environment. 

The ALRC has outlined five areas of improvement to the Copyright Act, including an open-ended exception “promoting fair access to and wide dissemination of content”.

“The reforms proposed include the introduction of a broad, flexible exception for fair use of copyright material and the consequent repeal of many of the current exceptions in the Copyright Act,” ALRC Commissioner for the Copyright Inquiry, Professor Jill McKeough, said

McKeough said the current copyright regime needs to become more flexible.

But changes to fair use definitions could bite content-makers.

In a recent copyright lawsuit in the US, artist Richard Prince won an appeal against the claim his reappropriation of French photographer Patrick Cariou’s intellectual property was unlawful. 

Prince V Cariou

Photo credit: Art in America

The landmark case determined that copyright definitions in the US do not require a new work to comment on any of its source material to qualify as “fair use”.

Other areas tipped for review by the ALRC include:

  • Acknowledging and respecting authorship and creation
  • Maintaining incentives for creation of works and other subject matter
  • Providing rules that are flexible and adaptive to new technologies
  • Providing rules that are consistent with Australia’s international obligations. 

The Copyright and the Digital Economy discussion paper was released on 6 June.

The Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance says it will be strongly arguing against the proposals, which it describes as "un-fair fair use"

The public are invited to make submissions in response to the paper before Wednesday 31 July. 

You can view the full paper here.  

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