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Wednesday, 1 November 2006
Page: 46

Mr RUDDOCK (Attorney-General) (12:01 PM) —in reply—I thank all members on both sides who have participated in the debate on the Copyright Amendment Bill 2006. It has been a very measured and sensible discussion about very complex and difficult issues. The debate has reflected an enormous amount of goodwill, which we do not always see in this chamber. I appreciate the observations that have been made by the member for Gellibrand, the member for Hinkler, who has had a longstanding interest in these issues, the member for Denison and the member for Blaxland.

I think these reforms are very significant. They cover a wide range of areas. I have been personally seized of the importance of progressing these matters at an appropriate pace but achieving substantial reform. It is important to understand the position I come from. I think creative activity is important. People will only engage in creative activity if they are properly rewarded. Copyright is one of those areas of intellectual property protection that we have to acknowledge. It plays a very important part in ensuring that Australians who are innately very creative and skilled, but do not always have market size on their side, are able to benefit from the work they undertake.

These are sensible and balanced initiatives to ensure that we properly reward people but do not unreasonably disadvantage consumers. Some of the reasons for reform have flowed from the free trade agreement with the United States. That has certainly prompted me to look at these issues, because we have to fulfil certain obligations that we have entered into with the United States. Certainly, when you look at the law in the United States, fair use has been properly accommodated in a scheme which is reasonably flexible and suits the circumstances of the United States. But we here in Australia have not had the benefit of the same sorts of fair use arrangements. In fact, many Australians were in breach of our law, because it had remained unaddressed over a long period of time. I appreciate the honesty of the member for Denison, who said that he had responsibility for this issue at one time and had not addressed it. When people want to tape at home their favourite program—for me it is probably something like The 7.30 Report or Lateline

Ms Gillard interjecting

Mr RUDDOCK —‘You should go out more’—I hear the comment! I make the point that taping programs is time-shifting and that, while nobody thought they were really committing an offence, it has been an offence under our law. People are using new technology; they take it up far quicker than I do. My children go around with iPods and other sorts of equipment. When I find a piece of music that I like—that is fairly hard to find—I tape the record and listen to it on the tape deck in my car. Does that say something about me? Modern people put it on their iPods. Having bought the copyright material, they expect that they are able to use it in another form. That seems very sensible to me. What we are trying to do is, in law, deal with these issues.

Equally, you have to give people who own copyright the opportunity to ensure that it is properly able to be enforced. The measures we have been putting in place here, including on-the-spot fines and a whole lot of other measures, give a full range of offences that can be effectively used. We have the technological protection measures that flow out of the free trade agreement. I would like to thank the member for Denison, the member for Gellibrand and my other colleagues who have contributed through the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs report on technological protection measures. This was a complex area in which I felt it was desirable that the parliament addressed its mind to these questions before we saw a complex bill. Equally, in relation to these measures, there has been a period in which the government has been involved in very extensive discussions with the wide range of stakeholders.

Although this is a technical area, this bill will have an impact upon our constituents. It will enable them to take advantage of new technology. It builds on our groundbreaking report on the Copyright Amendment (Digital Agenda) Act 2000, which brought our copyright laws into the digital age, and the major changes that were made in 2004. This government does have a strong record on copyright reform and continues to ensure that, in a period of change, our laws are world-class. The important reforms included new exemptions to make our copyright laws more sensible and defensible, along the lines on which members have already spoken.

The bill is a result of extensive consultation and it delivers on a number of copyright reviews undertaken in the past few years. They include our responses to the fair use and other exceptions review, the review of the digital agenda act amendments, the review of protection of subscription broadcasts, the Intellectual Property and Competition Review Committee’s review of copyright under the competition principles, the Copyright Review Committee’s review of jurisdictional procedures of the Copyright Tribunal, the report of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs on technological protection measures, and the technical review of all Australian legislation to ensure consistency with the Australian Criminal Code.

It is inevitable in making amendments in this area that there will be areas of disagreement between stakeholders. Not all amendments are well received by copyright owners and not all are well received by users but, as ever, one has to balance rights in the public interest and we believe that this bill goes a long way to achieving that fair compromise and balance. We have drawn on direct consultations with a wide range of stakeholders including private individuals, peak groups representing people with disabilities, owners of copyright works, broadcasters, distributors, copyright collection societies, academics and those in industry. May I commend my department and its officers, who have done an enormous amount of work in ensuring that that consultation took place.

Members will be aware that this bill has been referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs for inquiry and report by 10 November. Exposure drafts of this bill were made available prior to its introduction to allow interested parties to consider it and prepare submissions. We do intend that amendments that suggest themselves for consideration or those considered by the Senate committee in their response to the submissions and comments they have received will be properly considered. We are open to comments on how drafting can be improved, and I say that particularly to the member for Gellibrand. We are already considering changes to amendments concerning private copying, educational copying and jurisdiction of the Copyright Tribunal to improve language where suggestions have been made, and we will also be examining the report of the Senate committee.

I turn briefly to some of the observations that have been made. The member for Gellibrand made a point about the number of discussions she has had with particular stakeholders. She has obviously read some of the submissions and picked up those issues. As she considers these matters further I think she will find that other views will be made known to her and she will be involved in the same sorts of balancing decisions that we have been involved in. As I have already said, we will listen to what is said in the Senate committee report and if we can improve the bill we will.

The member for Gellibrand made an observation on the format-shifting measures, to which the member for Hinkler responded, but her interpretation of the measures, asserting that people would only be able to use material in the home, was not correct. Under fair use provisions, interpretation of the measures for private and domestic use does not mean you can use material with copyright associated with it only in the home. The measures certainly include use in the car or when jogging, as the member for Hinkler said—and I would like to see the member for Hinkler jogging with me in the morning! ‘Private and domestic’ means that you cannot sell material, you cannot upload it on the internet and you cannot play it to a public audience. This term has been used for many years and there are already quite extensive interpretations of it.

The member for Denison asked why we rejected the House of Representatives legal and constitutional affairs committee recommendation relating to criteria for additional exceptions. Let me say, without going into the detail of those measures, that we do acknowledge the important work done by the committee in its inquiry. Its recommendations for additional exceptions were of great assistance to us. But we have to take into account our international obligations. In the government’s response to the committee’s report, we noted that changes were needed to ensure compliance with a free trade agreement and also to accord with the requirements of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. This has meant that we have to address these issues in a slightly different way to the way in which they are able to be dealt with in the United States, and our responses had to take that into account.

The member for Denison noted that this is a technical area and one that requires legislation that perhaps could be more simple and easy to understand, but part of the difficulty is that it does also reflect our international obligations, as I mentioned, and the way in which we have to respond sometimes requires us to take into account a greater measure of manner and form than I would have liked myself. But I take advice on those matters, and the advice is that the approach that we have taken is judged to be most appropriate.

In conclusion, the Copyright Amendment Bill does introduce significant reforms, but it demonstrates our ongoing commitment to an effective, world-class, up-to-date copyright regime. It will ensure our laws take seriously the need to penalise copyright pirates for flouting the law, while ensuring that ordinary consumers are not infringing the law through everyday use of material that they have legitimately purchased. We look forward to the report of the Senate committee. Once again, I thank the members who contributed in such a measured and well-meaning way to this debate and I thank the House for its support of the bill.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.