January 2008

Who woulda thunk it? In accordance with a requirement for review of the operation of the Copyright Amendment Act 2006 (thanks Craig!), the Attorney-General has released a new copyright issues paper – on private copying of films and photos. Hmmm. You thought we dealt with that issue in late 2006? No, the new government says. Or at least, time for a review. I’ll just quote from the media release:

Attorney-General Robert McClelland said the review was part of the Rudd Government’s commitment to open public consultation in achieving fair and effective copyright law.

“The Rudd Government wants to ensure the Copyright Act continues to balance copyright protection with user needs,” Mr McClelland said.

“We are committed to encouraging creators and copyright owners to develop new markets while also giving a fair deal to Australian consumers, and I invite all parties to make a submission in response to the issues paper.”

Sections 47J and 110AA of the Copyright Act 1968 permit photographs and films to be copied in a different format for private use, subject to particular conditions. These two sections are the focus of the review.

Mr McClelland said there was a range of views about whether the present exceptions could be expanded to allow a greater range of copying without causing significant detriment to copyright owners.

“I acknowledge digital markets are rapidly adapting and the Government will need to assess all views in deciding whether to make changes.”

The legislation which introduced the new exceptions in 2006 also provides for a review of their operation. Submissions on the issues paper will close on 29 February 2008.

The budget of DFAT has been slashed, according to this Australian report I found when catching up on some blog reading today. As Roggeveen in the Lowy Interpreter notes – cuts to overseas posts will hurt Australian interests. It seems strange to see this from a PM who is a former diplomat himself.

Why am I commenting on this? Not really legal, I know. But I was strongly reminded, by this story, of an email I got from an old friend of mine a while back. She’s a professional who moved overseas. Energetic. Interesting. Intelligent. With her permission, I reproduce the email (with country names blanked to protect the innocent!) over the fold. No assertions by me, or Roggeveen, can quite capture what these kinds of cuts mean like her story of trying to get more involved with the Australian embassy in another country. (more…)

Michael Geist, the IPKat, Bill Patry and no doubt others note that the UK IP Office has issued a consultation paper on ‘Taking Forward the Gowers Review of Intellectual Property: Proposed Changes to Copyright Exceptions‘. At a cool 90 pages, it’s a big document; it’s also a very detailed one, covering potential broadened copyright exceptions for private copying (format shifting), educational uses, private research and study, libraries and archives (for preservation), and parody. Interested parties have until 8 April 2008 to respond.

From an Australian perspective, having in the last couple of years gone through something fairly similar, I think one of the most interesting things about the consultation paper is a point picked up by Patry: the ‘recognition of the conflicting needs for clear guidelines so that people can know what they may do and what they may not, and the countervailing ad hoc nature of so many determinations’. In other words, the old ‘rules/standards’ or ‘flexibility/certainty’ debate. (more…)