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Music industry criticises Australian safe harbour expansion plan

By | Published on Tuesday 14 March 2017


You know how the music industry is hoping to have the copyright safe harbours in European law restricted a little via the in-development new European Copyright Directive? Well, in Australia moves are afoot to expand the safe harbours there, so that’s fun isn’t it? Needless to say, the local music industry is not amused.

The safe harbours, of course, provide protection to internet companies whose customers use their servers or services to infringe copyright. The internet firm cannot be held liable for its customers’ infringement providing it offers copyright owners some sort of takedown system via which they can demand infringing content be removed.

In Europe, the music industry is trying to amend the safe harbours so that services like YouTube – which build media platforms on the back of the content their users upload, often without licence from the copyright owner – no longer enjoy protection. But in Australia the equivalent safe harbours are already much narrower in terms of what kinds of companies get protection, and so there the tech sector is pushing for them to be widened so that a greater range of organisations will qualify.

Schedule Two of a new copyright bill that will do just that has now gone to a Senate committee inquiry in the Australian parliament. But representatives for the media and entertainment industries argue that such proposals should be subject to more rigorous scrutiny, noting that other proposals in the new copyright bill have already gone through a full government review.

Director Of Corporate Affairs at News Corp Australia, Campbell Reid, told The Australian that problems with the safe harbours in the US and Europe should raise enough concerns for a fuller review of the new proposals in Australia.

Criticising the Australian government’s plans, he said ministers were “proposing a deceptively simple answer to a complex policy issue”, and that “we know from reviews in the US and Europe that the approach the government is taking is out of date and will have serious and material commercial consequences. Schedule Two of the bill should not be introduced to parliament. A review of all elements of the safe harbour ecosystem, including secondary liability, is essential before proceeding with any legislative amendments”.

Speaking for the country’s record industry, Dan Rosen of the Australian Recording Industry Association said: “A Senate inquiry is woefully inadequate to fix the fundamental flaws of this schedule. The other schedules to the bill were subject to a proper consultation and review by the department and that would be the appropriate place for an evidence-based inquiry into the commercial and market impact of any reform to safe harbour”.

Though a government spokesperson said that the Senate committee inquiry into the safe harbour proposals didn’t mean a further more thorough review couldn’t be subsequently undertaken. The spokesperson said: “A Senate inquiry into a bill where there are disparate views is a standard part of the legislative architecture and doesn’t preclude other avenues to input policy prior to legislating. The government is aware of calls in some quarters for a further departmental review to do this”.