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Thursday, 17 March 2005
Page: 1

Mr RUDDOCK (Attorney-General) (9:01 AM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I present the Copyright Amendment (Film Directors’ Rights) Bill 2005 to make amendments to the Copyright Act 1968.

The bill delivers a commitment made by the government in its Strengthening Australian Arts policy for the last election.

This bill will, for the first time, recognise directors as having a share of the copyright in their films. This bill will give directors a right to a share of royalties to be payable by subscription television broadcasters for retransmitting free-to-air broadcasts of directors’ films.

Films are a product of many people’s different contributions. Apart from the director and the actors, there are script writers, cinematographers, composers of the musical score and production designers.

Copyright is currently vested in the producer as the person who draws all these contributors together and ‘makes the production happen’. Others will have copyright in, for example, the script or the musical score. Directors will now share in the copyright in the film.

Directors’ copyright, like other copyright and personal property, will be transferable.

Further, where a director is working under an employment contract, that director’s copyright will vest in the employer, unless it is otherwise provided in the contract.

This is consistent with the existing law vesting copyright in the works of employed authors in their employers.

This bill builds on the government’s amendments to the Copyright Act in 2000 which gave directors moral rights in their films.

It also moves Australian law in line with that of many countries of the world, particularly members of the European Union, where directors do have a copyright in their films.

One benefit of this bill is that it creates the opportunity for directors to claim royalties for use of their films under remuneration schemes in EU countries because European directors will now be reciprocally entitled to remuneration in Australia.

The case for recognising directors’ copyright was raised by the Australian Screen Directors Association (ASDA) when the Copyright Amendment (Digital Agenda) Act 2000 was being debated.

The government agreed to look at the issue of extending a share of copyright in films to directors. An issues paper was published and submissions were received from stakeholders, including ASDA and also representatives of film producers and broadcasters.

The bill that I am now presenting has resulted from a careful consideration of those submissions and from consultations with the main stakeholders.

The government’s aim in preparing this bill is to recognise and encourage the creative contribution of our many fine Australian directors, some of whom are well known and others who are far less well known.

But the government also did not want to affect investment in Australia’s important film industry and existing revenue sources of its producers that are so vital to its ongoing success.

This bill has achieved this aim, in giving directors access to remuneration from the subscription television retransmission scheme.

No payments have yet been made to film copyright owners under that scheme because the quantum of those payments is still to be determined by the Copyright Tribunal.

Following the same reasoning, the government will consider giving directors a share of royalty revenue that would be due to film copyright owners under any future scheme of this type.

This bill, although short, represents a major milestone in giving due recognition to the important creative contribution of directors to their films.

The bill does so without disturbing the existing practices for securing investment in and arranging distribution of films, and in particular, the Australian film industry. I present the explanatory memorandum to this bill.

Debate (on motion by Ms George) adjourned.