Thursday, May 05, 2005

Australia Reviews Fair Use / Copyright Exceptions

Australia is trying to come to (the digital) age with its Copyright Act. Today the Attorney-General's department released a call for comments of an issues paper on the standing and possible changes of copyright exceptions: Fair Use and Copyright Exceptions [Word / PDF]. Currently Australians are not allowed to do platform shifting (e.g. ripping a CD to a MP3 player) and may only do very limited time shifting (e.g. recording television programs). Where fair use (US) and the private use exception (EU) may allow these acts, Australia does not know a specific exception for private use.

The Attorney-General said that "Many Australians believe quite reasonably they should be able to record a television program or format-shift music from their own CD to an iPod or MP3 player without infringing copyright law." [press release] The issues paper provides four possible changes to the current "fair dealing" provision and is open to others:
  1. consolidate the fair dealing exceptions in a single open-ended provision (would require judicial interpretation)
  2. retain the current fair dealing provisions and add an open-ended fair use exception (flexible but uncertainty about scope)
  3. retain current fair dealing exceptions and add further specific exceptions (e.g. time & format shifting)
  4. retain current fair dealing exceptions and add a statutory license that permits private copying of copyright material (possible problems with licensing scheme and DRMs v. private use)

The issues paper gives a nice insight in Australian copyright law's fair dealing provision, while it tries to provide the basics of other countries, especially the US. It does a fair enough job at that, though its analysis can be quite shallow (for example on the EUCD, which it refers to as the Information Society Directive). It does address the DRM v. fair use issue, which is a central part of the problems the Australian government seeks to solve. I don't see an effective solution in the proposed changes. But then there is no immediate (legislative) solution for it in the US/EU either. Looks like Australia has some catching up to do, before it solves that issue for us all.


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