Roxon eyes copyright for social networks

Attorney-General Nicola Roxon has advised the Australian Law Reform Commission's copyright review committee to examine whether posting copyright material on social networks for a non-commercial purpose should be exempted from copyright law.

Attorney-General Nicola Roxon has advised the Australian Law Reform Commission's copyright review committee to examine whether posting copyright material on social networks for a non-commercial purpose should be exempted from copyright law.

Pinterest

Pinterest app
(Credit: Cold Brew Labs)

In the wake of Optus' first court victory over sporting codes for its TV Now TV recording app, Roxon announced a wide review of the Copyright Act to be conducted by the Australian Law Reform Commission. The review would look at the time-shifting provisions that prevented the Optus app from breaching copyright when it recorded TV broadcasts from free-to-air channels.

Roxon appointed University of Technology Sydney (UTS) Dean of Law Professor Jill McKeough as the commissioner in charge of the inquiry.

Today, the attorney-general released a draft terms of reference for the review, looking specifically at the impact technology has had on copyright law, in particular the adequacy and appropriateness of exemptions in the Copyright Act including time-shifting provisions.

"An examination of the exceptions in the Copyright Act will ensure Australia can continue to take advantage of technology to drive economic and cultural development," Roxon said in a statement.

It wasn't just about closing potential loopholes, however, with Roxon specifying that the committee should also review whether further exemptions should be given to "allow legitimate non-commercial use of copyright works for uses on the internet such as social networking".

The use of copyright material on social networks has been close to impossible to regulate, but has gained attention of late due to the rise of the content-sharing social network Pinterest, which allows users to take pictures they like and pin them to a personal pinboard. The site recently launched a reporting tool that allows copyright holders to report where their content is being infringed to the administrators and have it removed from Pinterest.

If an exemption was given to posting copyright material to social networks for non-commercial purposes, Pinterest could potentially avoid many of its problems in dealing with copyright.

The draft terms of reference states that the committee should not examine areas covered by the convergence review, unauthorised distribution of peer-to-peer networks or the scope of the safe harbour scheme for internet service providers.

The latter two are still currently being reviewed by the High Court in the long-running case between film studios and iiNet over whether iiNet endorsed its users' copyright infringement by not acting on warning notices provided by the studios.

Despite removing these two issues from the scope of the review, Roxon said technology was its focus.

"The draft terms of reference reflect the fact that technology is constantly evolving and testing the boundaries of copyright law," Roxon said in a statement.

"In our fast-changing, technologically driven world, it's important to ensure our copyright laws are keeping pace with change and able to respond to future challenges."

Submissions for the draft terms of reference are due by 27 April 2012. The Australian Law Reform Commission must report no later than 30 November 2013.