Aus copyright industry blames piracy, parity for decline

The Australian Copyright Council has blamed a combination of the high Aussie dollar, the global financial crisis and copyright infringement for the decline of the value the copyright industry contributes to the Australian economy.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

A new report by PricewaterhouseCoopers, commissioned by the Australian Copyright Council, shows that the value added to the Australian economy by copyright industries has declined over the past three years from AU$100.2 billion to AU$93.2 billion.

Under World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) methodology, the core copyright industry is said to include newspapers, book publishers, musicians, film writers, actors, directors, video rentals, sales, broadcasters, cable television, photography, programming, development, wholesale and retail sale of software, artists and advertising, but the report also includes interdependent industries, such as hardware manufacturers.

The Australian copyright industry's contribution to the economy peaked in 2008, when it provided AU$100.2 billion to Australia's gross domestic product (GDP). That figure has since declined to AU$93.2 billion in 2011, although this was a slight rise from the AU$92.6 billion achieved back in 2010.

As a percentage of total Australian GDP, however, the contribution continued to decline to 6.6 per cent, from a peak in 2000 of 9 per cent. Comparatively, in the United States, copyright industries made up 11.1 per cent of GDP in 2011.

The report found that between 1997 and 2011, the compound annual growth rate for core copyright industries was 2.7 per cent, compared to a 3.3 per cent rate across all sectors in Australia. The biggest growth came in the area of software and databases, which had 6 per cent growth over that period.

Employment in the copyright industry peaked in 2008, amid the Global Financial Crisis, at 938,335, steadily declining down to 906,591 in 2011. In the past four years, software and databases, as well as advertising, saw the biggest growth in employment, up 2.1 per cent and 2.4 per cent respectively, between 2007 and 2011. Press and broadcasting saw the sharpest decline, dropping 2.7 per cent and 2.5 per cent in the same period.

In noting the findings, PwC said that the Australian copyright industry had been challenged by a "perfect storm", where the move to digitisation has enabled consumers to compare prices, make "unauthorised copies" and buy online from international retailers for cheaper prices, due to the high Aussie dollar.

"The combined impact of these three forces, has been lower or negative growth in a number of copyright industries, and the apparent demise of some distribution models," the report noted. "In this environment, there is a need for an appropriate regulatory model to support copyright businesses' innovation and sustainable growth."

Chairman of the Australian Copyright Council, Professor Michael Fraser, said that, while copyright industries were developing new platforms to deliver content that is innovative and affordable, getting Australia's regulatory environment right was key.

"With the right regulatory framework, copyright industries can continue to develop new business models. And, in doing so, continue to provide jobs and quality education, information and entertainment content that highlights Australian creativity."

The report will no doubt be included in the Australian Copyright Council's submission to the Australian Law Reform Commission's review of copyright law in Australia. An issues paper for this review is due out by the end of this month.

The review may end up being overshadowed by the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, which Australia is currently negotiating with a number of other countries, including the United States and New Zealand. According to leaked documents from the negotiations, Australia is siding with the United States in taking a hard line against copyright exceptions. Greens Senator Scott Ludlam said that if Australia signs the TPP agreement, it would make any reform proposals put forward by the copyright review "worthless".

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