Why Australia needs the proposed Access Reform

15 Mar 2022

Australia needs the reforms proposed in the Access Reform Bill to continue our journey towards a flexible and contemporary copyright system that actively supports and safeguards copyright users and copyright owners equally.

On Friday 25 February 2022 we made a submission with the Australian Digital Alliance (ADA) to the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications in response to a consultation on the exposure draft of the Copyright Amendment (Access Reforms) Bill 2021 and a review of the technological protection measures (TPMs) exceptions in the Copyright Regulations 2017. In summary, the exposure draft of the Bill includes five main reform measures:

  • A limitation on the remedies available for the use of orphan materials;
  • Introduction of a new fair dealing exception for quotation from copyright material;
  • Simplifying and extending the library and archives exceptions;
  • Modernising the education exceptions; and
  • Modernising the government exceptions.

The ADA and the ALACC advocate for the introduction of these amendments on public interest grounds:

  • The introduction of a limitation on remedies when using orphan works is long overdue and will open up orphaned material to productive and creative new uses. With the right protections in place for copyright owners, the scheme will activate volumes of materials currently stuck in copyright limbo.
  • A stand-alone fair dealing exception for quotation will allow quoting of copyright material will provide greater confidence when quoting material, will address the onerous effort required to secure permission to use quoted third-party material in a range of situations and increase the public value of content released by libraries and archives, education providers, researchers, research organisations and governments. However, the ADA and the ALACC believe that limiting the application of the provision to the extent included in the drafting is unjustified, and will seriously limit the usefulness of the provision (a detailed discussion of the limitations on the provision is included in our submission).
  • The changes to the library and archives exceptions are an appropriate continuation of the modernisation of those provisions started by the Copyright Amendment (Disability Access and Other Measures) Act 2017. They will cut a significant amount of ‘red tape’ while supporting cultural collections to provide equitable access to their collections material. Additionally, introducing the use of copyright material for ‘private and domestic use’ into some of the libraries and archives exceptions will allow reasonable new uses by the public.
  • Modernising the education exceptions is necessary if Australian education providers are to remain attractive and competitive in the changing education market. Educators need greater flexibility in how they can use copyright material, especially for remote and online learning – a reality that was laid bare when the doors of schools, universities and TAFEs were closed during consecutive lockdowns in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The pandemic also exposed the need for more online delivery of federal and state governments services. Addressing the shortcomings of the government statutory licensing scheme and clarifying how governments can use material provided to them are important measures needed to help government bodies be smart, flexible and digital-focused.

There is a real need for these reforms. Regional and remote library users, academic, family and community researchers, government staff, parents, students and teachers across the country are increasingly frustrated by the copyright red tape that gets in the way of them engaging with collections material, accessing important collections items such as family history records, delivering government services online or being able to participate fully in online classes. While COVID-19 is the backdrop against which these reforms are framed, the issues addressed are long-standing. These changes are needed for libraries, for archives, for schools, for universities, for researchers of all kinds, for governments and for the Australian public. Australia’s post-COVID recovery depends on a more modern copyright system that can deliver the flexibility and agility needed in this time of pandemic and going forward. This Bill provides the opportunity for Australia to embrace an effective online future.

The full text of our joint submission is available in the Advocacy section of the website.

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