by Don Groves & Lori Flekser
A coalition representing Australian writers, artists, filmmakers, musicians and other creators has launched a campaign to protect their jobs from the threat of weaker copyright laws saying that Australian creators have a right to receive fair payment for their work.
The Free is not Fair campaign calls on the federal government and parliament to reject changes to Australian copyright laws proposed by the Productivity Commission.
The group contends that 'Fair use' is an American legal principle that has enabled large enterprises in the US, particularly tech giants, to use copyright material for free, and that importing the US 'fair use' regime as recommended by the PC would make it easier for large organisations to use Australian content without fair payment to creators.
PwC has estimated that introducing 'fair use' in Australia could result in a loss of GDP of more than $1 billion.
"This is not just unfair, it is a threat to the future of Australian stories and means it will be even harder to make a living for the next generation of artists and creators," the coalition says. "There will be less Australian music and screen content, less Australian stories in our bookshops, less Australian materials in our schools and universities. Free is not fair.
"Our kids should be able to grow up inspired by musicians like Jessica Mauboy and Jimmy Barnes, artists like Tracey Moffatt and Brett Whiteley, movies like Mad Max and Lion, TV shows like Home and Away and Offspring, stories in our bookshops like Possum Magic and Diary of a Wombat and learning from Australian materials like Mathletics and Reading Eggs," their website reads.
Patrick Kilbride, Executive Director, International IP, at the Global Intellectual Property Center of the US Chamber of Commerce said that "...historically, Australia has been a world leader when it comes to IP legislation and is one of a small group of nations that has effective incentives to create in place, providing legal certainty to innovators investing in Australian stories, content and information in the marketplace.
It is a balance that mobilises the creative talents of the population while also serving local and global consumers in the provision of high quality content and entertainment. That's why the recent recommendations of the [Productivity] Commission's report are both puzzling and alarming to myself and many other international observers."
The coalition describes the Australian copyright system as one of the world's most admired.
"Not only do our copyright laws provide certainty and incentives for creators to create, many digital businesses in Australia have thrived because we have effective copyright and intellectual property arrangements.
As well as this, people who work in education can copy content for their 4.7 million school and university students, under a centrally negotiated system where universities and schools pay less than the price of a book per student per year. This money goes to the content creators, without placing an administrative burden on teachers - a win-win situation."
One of the key features of the campaign is the "call to action" - encouraging Australian creators to write to their local MPs, expressing concern about US tech giants pushing to change what is a substantially viable Australian copyright ecosystem that currently delivers benefits to creators, publishers and producers.
Creators are urged to remind their local members that Australian artists, writers, musicians and filmmakers have a right to receive fair payment for their work and that "fair use" is a threat to their income and jobs and may mean the next generation will find it harder to make a living.
"Changes must not be made at the cost of Australian creativity," the letter reads.
The campaign and advocacy website have been created by the Copyright Agency | Viscopy in partnership with APRA AMCOS, Screen Producers Australia, Australian Society of Authors, Australian Publishers Association, Books Create and the National Association for the Visual Arts.
The initiative is also a response to a recent and misleading Wikipedia campaign that has encouraged the Australian public to call for the watering down of copyright.
The campaign encourages people to email their local MPs to show their support to Australian creators.