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The books and song that change lives

by Di Campisi and Ella Ogden

Celebrating the Copyright Agency and APRA AMCOS's social media campaign - This Book/Song Changed My Life - film/television publicist Di Campisi reminisces about the songs and book which influenced her life, while Creative Content Australia’s Admin/Comms Ella Ogden explains how the campaign works.

It sounds clichéd but I sometimes reminisce with school friends of more than three decades ago about the 'soundtrack' of our lives during the summers of our teens. For me it was Australian Crawl's magnificent albums Boys Light Up and Sirocco, which I knew by heart as I dreamt of expanding my horizons from the gorgeous South Coast town I took for granted.

Or Meatloaf's Bat Out of Hell the mandatory album to play on every school bus trip as, filled with hormones and fantasies, we contemplated achieving our own paradise by the dashboard lights. Even after so many years, those songs transport me; to a time and place long gone, and a version of myself almost unrecognisable to me, and incomprehensible to my teenage daughter.

As for the book that changed my life - well, I'm in good company here. Until I was nine I was an only child of a struggling single mother, and didn't have any relationship with my father until I was thirteen, so when I read, and immediately re-read To Kill A Mockingbird aged ten, Atticus Finch became the dad I had longed for.

Big, gentle, strong, kind and just. I idolised him, and Scout and Jem, and Harper Lee's American classic. For three years, Atticus did very well as my father of choice in my imagination, until my own father came into my life. He wasn't exactly Atticus but he was gentle and kind. I have read the book many times over the years and I watch the movie every now and then and Gregory Peck's perfect performance is as authentic as when I saw it more than forty years ago.

Music and literature (and movies) have been potent forces in my life. Those cultural artefacts, and the memories they evoke, are as precious to me as some of the folded and yellowing hand-written letters from my youth I have kept in a tin box, now shabby and scratched with age. I wonder if my daughter's box of memories will contain anything more than a USB stick.

It wasn't until I began to work in the creative industries that I started to contemplate how much heart and soul and toil and time goes into creative works. How long it takes to painstakingly revise drafts of a screenplay or novel until it's right. How many attempts the perfect bridge for a song might need, or how long a songwriter has to wait before inspiration delivers a catchy riff.

And after my first ten years working in the creative industries, I started to understand the effects of artists works being appropriated without being paid for.

This Book/Song Changed My Life

In a technologically advanced world where people can easily download screen content from pirate sites, watch illegal live-streams of sports on Facebook and convert songs on YouTube to Mp3, it's no surprise that Australian artists have united to encourage audiences to respect their creative rights and to prevent proposed changes to copyright laws.

Author Jackie French, MP Tony Burke and radio and TV personality Rove McManus are among those who have joined the Copyright Agency and APRA AMCOS social media campaign This Book/Song Changed My Life.

Copyright Agency's head of communications Sue Nelson says the initiative "is to remind people of the joy and value they get from creativity whether it's through books, songs, poems, TV shows, or any other medium."

That follows the Productivity Commission's proposed changes to copyright laws including adopting the US style of 'Fair Use' which would disadvantage local creators and users by injecting unreasonable uncertainty and unpredictability into the law.

A recent World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) study found that Australia has more exceptions and limitations for education than any of the other 188 countries surveyed. The exceptions regime is also extensive for libraries and archives, people with disabilities, and the digital environment. It provides payment of a fair fee for the licence, which ensures all artists are compensated for their works.

Copyright Agency CEO Adam Suckling has said the Productivity Commission's recommendations to implement 'Fair Use' would "see Australian artists, writers, musicians and filmmakers not receiving fair payment for their work and make it sustainably harder to make a living."

APRA AMCOS CEO Brett Cottle says, "at a time when copyright is working in practice as it should, just when the culturally-rich and economically vital business of music is getting back on its feet, it's difficult to fathom why measures such as those relating to... 'fair use' should be contemplated by Government."

Jackie French says, "Stories have a tremendous power for good and we need to value them to protect them."

Tony Burke agrees, "You think that the story of an Australian song is entirely captured in the lyrics and in the music, itself, but, so often there's moments, there's lines, there's emotions in that music that have captured an entire part of our own story.

The campaign also asks Australians to make a social pledge on their social media sites by uploading pictures of books, songs, artists, films and TV shows that have changed their lives with the hashtags:

#respectcreators      #freeisnotfair      #poweredbycopyright

This digital badge supports the message to respect copyright and each pledgee agrees to pay for artists' work, attribute creators and ask permission for material.

I'm happy to spread the word about this initiative because I respect the people who create music and literature and art and movies, and I recognise how important a healthy copyright system is to ensure creativity flourishes in a dynamic digital economy.

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