Rights holders seek extra reps on copyright review

Copyright holders have complained of not being adequately represented in the ALRC's review of copyright law for the digital age.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

Copyright holders have claimed that they are not being properly represented in the Australian Law Reform Commission's (ALRC) review of copyright laws, and have sought to be put on an expert panel for the review.

The ALRC is currently reviewing the Copyright Act with a view to see whether it is keeping up to date with rapid changes in technology.

"The questions we are asking in this inquiry go to whether our current copyright laws are properly aiding the development of opportunities for Australian creators, and not unduly hindering the development of new business models, while at the same time ensuring appropriate protection for copyright," the ALRC commissioner for the copyright inquiry, professor Jill McKeough, said at the time.

The review has cast an eye on whether cloud services are being limited by the law, specifically in the Optus TV Now cloud recording case, where the company was found to have been in breach of copyright law by allowing its users to record TV broadcasts using Optus' cloud services.

In a Senate Estimates hearing yesterday, Attorney-General's Department secretary Roger Wilkins said that rights holders have approached the department, stating that they weren't adequately represented on the expert panel for the review.

"There was a question raised particularly by the rights owners. I think they may be going to set up a panel of people who have expertise, particularly as right holders, to input as a sort of sounding board into some of the considerations and some of the recommendations of the committee," he said. "The rights holders said they did not think they were adequately represented."

Wilkins said that their concerns are being addressed.

"I think that has now been brought to the attention of the ALRC, and it is my understanding the ALRC is taking action to address it."

Humphries raised the issue in reference to a comment by Gilbert + Tobin solicitor Michael Williams in the Australian Financial Review. Williams questioned the need for the review, and said that it had "not been established that there is any urgent need for legislative change across areas of copyright, or that private or commercial activity is being impeded by existing copyright laws."

Williams represented the rights holders in the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft's (AFACT) ill-fated case against internet service provider (ISP) iiNet.

Humphries questioned why the inquiry was being conducted, given that the demand for the inquiry "seems to be very limited." Wilkins said that the review is looking at all points of view.

"Partly, what we are doing in this review from the ALRC is to test that proposition, to have a look at contending points of view, and see whether there is any need to change the law or not. It is not necessarily a review which will lead to dramatic change," he said. "We are agnostic. I think that is the whole point in setting up the review."

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