The Australian Government Productivity Commission Draft Report
You may have seen me share an article or two on Facebook regarding the recommendations in the draft Productivity Commission report. It is a topic that has stirred up a lot of anger and hurt in the Australian writing community (as well as other areas). I’d like to share some information so you understand what is at stake.
I sat down to read the Fact Sheet (1) on copyright that was released alongside the report. It didn’t take long for me to get wound up, all due to the slant given. I’ll share a few quotes - you see if you can pick up what riled me:
“The current duration of copyright imposes costs on the community, and access to works is restricted.”
“Copyright protection far exceeds the commercial life of works”
“Australia needs a new, principles-based, fair use exception, to protect user rights without undermining the incentive to create…Fair Use guides have been developed to foster certainty for users.”
“Adopting fair use with benefit Australian consumers, schools, other educational institutions, libraries and archives.”
(Regarding online copyright infringement) “Survey evidence suggests infringement declines with better content pricing and availability. As such, an effective approach to reducing infringement is the timely release of content to Australian consumers.”
Did you pick up the theme?
It’s about the users. The writers of the report seem to think that user should have the ability to access materials easily and cheaply (or preferably free), and to hell with the actual creator. Do you think paying $2.99/$15 for years of work too much? I almost choked when I read the last one. Of course infringement will decline - you’ve made the content free of copyright! Maybe we should make all of the food in supermarkets free - then there would be no shoplifting. Same logic.
As a result of the report several high profile Australian authors have come out swinging:
What it boils down to for me is that I could end up only having copyright of my works for as little as 15 years. That’s 15 years, down from ‘lifetime plus 70 years’.
Those who wrote the report think the current copyright period is outrageous and the creator shouldn’t have the right to expect payment beyond 15 years, and believe the work has no viable commercial life after this period. And don’t think you can unpublish a book at the 14 year and 11 month mark and protect it. Nope, perpetual copyright protection of unpublished works will be removed and they will be made available regardless of what the author wants. I could live to see my hard work used by others to make money, and I would get no compensation for it.
Imagine this. Fifteen years from now a B grade film company decides my novel, Roses, would make a good movie. They could do what they like, change what they like, and I would have no say in it. I would make no money from it either. How is that okay? How is that going to encourage people to keep creating? Why would I?
As for Fair Use… Google has scanned and uploaded over 25 million - that’s 25 MILLION - books to its database under the American Fair Use law, all without any of the authors giving permission. An artist would be able to use photographs from a book to create a collage - without any recompense to the photographer. I don’t want my books used without my permission for any purpose, and that’s the kind of thing that is being recommended.
What am I doing about it? So far I have written to all of the candidates in my electorate expressing my concerns. I will also be making a submission to the Productivity Commission in the next day or two.
If the united efforts of those against these reforms fail, then what?
If the change to copyright goes ahead I will unpublish my books before the law takes effect, and I will not publish any further stories in any form. I don’t know if I’ll even continue my blog.
That would be another Australian small business gone. Make that two, because my tiny publishing press would shut its metaphorical doors as well.
I will keep writing - I don’t think I could stop - but no one will ever read anything I write.
Let’s hope the recommended changes don't become law. It would break my heart.
1 Australian Government Productivity Commission, Fact Sheet, Intellectual Property Rights, Copyright; http://www.pc.gov.au/inquiries/current/intellectual-property/draft/copyright-factsheet.pdf
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