Content Cafe

POLICY

Copyright - the year in review

by Don Groves

Content Café launched in March 2016 – the first dedicated online platform in the Southern Hemisphere to give voice to a range of filmmakers, academics, copyright experts and creative individuals highlighting the role of copyright in the creative industries and advocating strong copyright protection.

A one-stop-shop for insights into policy, legislative issues and academic research, Content Café provides a counterpoint to mainstream media which tends to be, at best, equivocal and at worst, hostile to notions of valuing or protecting copyright.

Since March we’ve posted 89 articles or links, covering an array of issues: site blocking legislation (domestic and international), Safe Harbour, the Productivity Commission report, the impact of new streaming services in Australia, the success of Australian filmmakers abroad, how IP works and what Fair Use really means.

In one of the first articles this year, Antonio Oreña-Barlin, a screenwriter, director and the co-founder of CGI studio and production company Rotor Studios, addressed a recurring issue confronting all areas of the Australian screen industry.

“These days people expect to be entertained for free (for the most part) and what happens when, inevitably, the business model fails to support that?” he asked, adding that he knew many professionals in the industry who expect to go home with a pay cheque but are not willing to pay a modest fee for the millions of dollars’ worth of product they consume.

Similarly, we end the year with an article by producer Glenys Rowe, who laments that filmmakers in the developing regions of Asia Pacific are being ripped off by digital downloaders who offer digital downloads internationally before the film can even play a cinema where it might stand a chance of returning a few dollars to the creative team who made it.

Still, in 2016 the battle to win respect for copyright and creators’ livelihoods has made significant progress on several fronts.

The Federal Court is soon to rule on the first site-blocking cases brought by Foxtel, and a coalition led by Village Roadshow which will result in ISPs taking down a bunch of sites that flagrantly offer free downloads of hundreds of films and TV shows.

The Federal Government rejected a proposal by the Productivity Commission to reduce the life of copyright to 15-25 years after creation in place of the current term of 70 years after the death of the author.

However the PC’s final report into Intellectual Property Arrangements recommended a shakeup of copyright law which Kim Williams, Chair of The Copyright Agency, warns would harm the ability of film and television makers, writers, artists and journalists to tell Australian stories and make a living doing so.

Williams quoted a PwC report which showed if the PC proposal to introduce the US-style Fair Use regime were adopted, it would strip millions from Australian storytellers and content creators. Governments, companies and large education institutions who pay to use content may either pay much less or cease paying.

The owner of Kickass Torrents (KAT), the world’s biggest torrent-sharing site, 30 year-old Ukrainian Artem Vaulin, was arrested in Poland for criminal copyright infringement and money-laundering and is awaiting extradition to the US.

Site-blocking is one of the pillars of a five-point plan unveiled at the 2016 Australian International Movie Convention by Village Roadshow co-chairman/co-CEO Graham Burke to reverse what he calls the “piracy plague”.

These include collaborating with Google on such measures as removing links to pirate sites, educating consumers on the impact of piracy, and suing repeat infringers and seeking a fine “akin to a parking ticket” as a deterrent.

The growing impact of computer viruses has been another focus in 2016, with research showing that users of pirate sites are 28 times more likely to infect their computers with malware that can steal their personal information for financial gain.

Expect to hear more about that and other developments when Content Café resumes in January 2017.

We will continue to shine the spotlight on the value of copyright to our society, its essential contribution to the growth and success of the digital economy and its role in creativity and innovation.

If you’re a stakeholder, observer or influencer in the copyright, technology, media or creative industries, or in government in Australia, Content Café is for you.

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