As we all know, the government released its amendments to the Copyright Amendment Bill yesterday. The Bill is the culmination of the US FTA, and numerous reviews, public and not-so-public, that have been going on since about 2003, and is probably the biggest copyright reform we’ve seen since 2000 (and are likely to see for some time, would be my guess).

The Bill was due to be debated in Parliament today (assume it still is until I hear otherwise from someone). My initial (somewhat heated, oops!) comments on the amendments are here. My comments on the Amendment Bill as a whole you will find by using the links on the sidebar of my other blog, Weatherall’s Law.
But for those of you who joined us late (where have you been?) or just want a handy summary, here’s my FAQs on the amended Copyright Amendment Bill:

  1. What does the Bill give to copyright owners? The Bill strengthens enforcement in two key ways: (a) by strengthening our ‘anti-hacking’ laws (anti-circumvention laws) – protecting more kinds of DRM and making it illegal, for the first time, for individuals to circumvent DRM, and (b) by broadening the criminal liability provisions, introducing strict liability and summary offences, with the explicit aim of giving police more options, and thus encouraging them to actually use the criminal law against copyright infringers. It’s worth noting that both these shifts are things that copyright owners have wanted since at least 2000 if not longer.
  2. What does the Bill give to consumers? Some specific ‘personal copying’ exceptions: in other words, the Bill allows people to (a) tape TV or radio to watch/listen to later, and (b) make copies for private and domestic use of some kinds of material (newspapers, magazines, journals, books, photographs, analogue videotapes and sound recordings). The explicit aim here is to ensure that consumers aren’t infringing copyright every time they use modern technology.
  3. What does the Bill give to creators? To the extent that creators are copyright owners, they benefit from the strengthening at point 1 above. Where they are not owners, they get the benefit of a new exception which allows for fair dealing for the purposes of parody and satire. With any luck, this broadens the narrow and inadequate exception for ‘criticism and review’ that we had before.
  4. What does the Bill give to public institutions like libraries, galleries, archives, universities, and schools? There are some new exceptions for these organisations. They get some broader rights to make copies for preservation, and a ‘flexible exception’ that allows for various forms of copying provided it doesn’t conflict too much with copyright owners’ legitimate interests.
  5. What does the Bill give to SMEs and the creators of new software and consumer electronics? Um, next question? Actually, that’s not fair. They get stronger criminal laws which might mean they need to introduce copyright training for their staff. All right, so that’s not fair either. They do get that. They also get the assurance that consumers are allowed to make copies of CDs for their MP3 players and tape stuff to watch later on their PVRs. And they get a right to make interoperable products despite anti-hacking laws. It remains to be seen how useful that is.
  6. So the Bill gives something to everyone, right? Well, yes, everyone gets a little something – this is a consumately political Bill. And the people who get the least are the ones, of course, who were least involved in the debate: the innovators and SMEs. As I said. A consumately political bill.
  7. Do the amendments fix the problems the media have been going on about? Yes, it would seem that the amendments fix some of the worst, specific problems with the Bill. The government has tried to fix the ‘iPod exception’ (copying for private and domestic use of sound recordings), and has probably succeeded subject to some debate over detail. They have also removed some of the strict liability offences, meaning that a whole lot of conduct, that ordinary/everyday Australians do, will now no longer lead to the chance of an Infringement Notice and a $1320 fine (for detail, see yesterdays’ comments).
  8. Given these changes, why are you still complaining about the Bill? I’m complaining about the approach of the Bill. As I said yesterday, these amendments are a patch up job. Yes, the Bill is better for the patches. But the Bill still leads to an ever-more-incomprehensible piece of copyright legislation, that lacks any flexibility for the next technological developments. What has been happening so far in Australia is that new technologies have been introduced, over time, that facilitated mass infringement. The iPod is an example. Now the iPod has been ‘legalised’. Will that continue to happen? Maybe. But with stronger criminal laws, will businesses be prepared to keep risking it? Probably. I hope so.
  9. Will the world come to an end after this Bill? Um, no. People will get on with things, and to some extent, quite a lot of the interesting activity online will bypass this system by being user-generated and open access.
  10. Then why are people carrying on as if it will? It’s copyright. It’s always like that.

So what about the ordinary, average, everyday Joe? Under the amended bill, is he:

  1. A criminal when he records a bit of the U2 concert on his phone? Maybe, if he knows it’s without consent of U2. But he won’t risk an Infringement Notice (on the spot fine) and so will probably not face a high risk of criminal liability.
  2. A criminal when he tapes something to watch later? No. Never was. But under these new laws, he won’t be a copyright infringer either.
  3. Allowed to copy his CDs to his iPod? Yes, assuming that the CD is not copy-protected.
  4. Allowed to keep copies of songs on his laptop and his iPod and his iPod nano? Yes, I think he is, as long as he owns the devices and an authorised copy of the song.
  5. Allowed to make copies of his friend’s CD onto his laptop and iPod? No. He has to own the iPod and an authorised copy of the CD.
  6. Allowed to sell his iPod with some songs still on it? No, emphatically not. That’s criminal.
  7. Likely to be charged as a criminal for some ordinary act? No, not unless the Federal Police are getting a major boost to resources that I don’t know about.