Australian Productivity Commission on copyright

Stuff reports:

Adopting an Australian blueprint to reform copyrights laws could grow the economy, and increase the chance of the next Google being founded on these shores.

The Australian Government Productivity Commission says the country should adopt the “fair use”  culture of the US, Israel and Singapore, all noted innovation and technology hubs.

The blueprint has a growing band of fans in New Zealand who believe it would legalise many of the roughly 80 unwitting copyright breaches Australians and New Zealanders commit every day.

These include casual breaches such as forwarding an email containing copyright material, uploading copyright material to the cloud, or watching a clip on Youtube.

But there’s something more profound at stake than legalising accepted common everyday uses, they say.

Supporters of “fair use” rules say they are the foundation of US technological innovation.

It was a common mantra among colleagues that what the New Zealand economy needed was to create the next Google, said Alex Sims from the University of Auckland’s faculty of business and economics.

“The thing is, under our laws, we can’t. Google exists because of fair use,” she says.

It’s not that a company here couldn’t do it, but innovation and investment are chilled by the fear of being sued under New Zealand’s restrictive copyright laws by a powerful company which took exception to something that would be considered fair use in the US.

The commission found that Australia’s copyright laws were frustrating efforts of online businesses seeking to provide cloud computing solutions, preventing medical and scientific researchers from taking full advantage of text and data mining, and limiting universities from offering flexible Massive Open Online Courses. 

The commission concludes that Australian copyright protection is “skewed too far in favour of copyright owners to the detriment of consumers and intermediate users.”

Ernst and Young produced a cost-benefit analysis suggesting “fair use” would produce a net economic benefit to Australia, though just how big is hard to assess.

The Australian report is excellent and it should form the template for reform of NZ copyright laws.

Sims says the practice of copying sound recording, which goes back to people making compilation tapes for personal use in the 1970s and 80s, was only legalised here with an exemption created in 2008.

The commission gives the similar Australian example of the legalisation of video recordings of TV shows for personal use in 2006, by which time “VCRs were household relics”.

Did you know even now in NZ you can only keep a recording of a TV show for as long as is practical to have viewed it.

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