Thursday, March 23, 2017

Australian government takes safe harbour reform out of copyright bill | UNLIMITED | CMU


The Australian government has dropped plans to extend safe harbours from a new piece of legislation that will amend the country’s copyright laws.

As previously reported, the Australian record industry was among those who hit out at plans to extend the country’s copyright safe harbour. Unlike in the US and Europe, the existing safe harbour under Australian law is pretty narrowly defined, so that it only really protects internet service providers.

Companies protected by the safe harbour cannot be held liable if their customers use the internet services they provide to infringe copyright, providing they offer copyright owners some sort of takedown system via which they can demand infringing content be removed. In the US and Europe search engines, digital lockers, social media and user-upload platforms can also claim safe harbour protection.

The Australian government had planned to bring the country’s safe harbour rules more in line with those in the US and Europe. However, the local media and entertainment industries hit out at that proposal, pointing out that the wider safe harbour had proven controversial in America and the European Union, and that moves were afoot in the latter to limit safe harbour protection for user-upload platforms.

With all that in mind, lobbyists for the content owners argued, a rigorous review should be undertaken before any changes to Australian safe harbour rules are considered by lawmakers. Yet the safe harbour reform hadn’t been subject to a proper consultation like the other proposals in the Copyright Amendment Bill.

Making that point earlier this month, Dan Rosen of the Australian Recording Industry Association said: “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”.

In something of a u-turn, the Australian government yesterday dropped the safe harbour element of its copyright bill before introducing it in the country’s parliament. Reps for the media and entertainment industries welcomed the decision – Rosen calling it a “positive development” – but, presumably aware that safe harbours are nevertheless likely to stay on the wider copyright agenda, those reps reiterated their call for a full review of the issue.

According to The Australia, Rosen said: “It is very important that the government now directs the Department Of Communications to have a full, independent and evidence-based review of the safe harbour scheme and its impact on Australia’s digital markets”.

Communications Minister Mitch Fifield said that the safe harbour proposal had been taken out of the copyright bill in response to “feedback” from the content industries, and that the government didn’t want the debate around that specific issue to unnecessarily delay other elements of the copyright reform legislation.


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