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Thursday, 10 May 2018
Page: 2894


Senator STEELE-JOHN (Western Australia) (13:25): The Australian Greens welcome the progress that the Copyright Amendment (Service Providers) Bill 2017 makes in bringing Australian copyright law up to date and in line with international best practice. In order to expedite the passage of this bill we have supported it as non-controversial, although we would like to see further consideration and review of Australian copyright law in the near future.

The Australian Greens are strongly supportive of both the creative and the innovative industries in Australia. These fields are increasingly overlapping as digital distribution becomes more and more prevalent, which creates both opportunities and risks for content creators and service providers. Currently, Australian universities, libraries, schools, digital innovators, cultural institutions and tech companies provide online services without the benefit of the same safe harbour as their equivalents overseas. This bill goes to addressing a portion of this issue, and we welcome this progress.

A safe harbour provides protections for service providers that make information and culture available online where they do not control, initiate or direct users' activities online. This bill defines 'service provider' to be a carriage service provider; an organisation assisting persons with a disability; or a body administering a library, archive, cultural institution or educational institution. However, the safe harbour protection is not extended to digital innovators or content service providers. There was substantial support for this further extension of safe harbours expressed in submissions to the Environment and Communications Legislation Committee inquiry into this bill. They came from digital innovators, tech companies, government bodies, libraries and independent advocates. There was also concern expressed that the defined service providers in the proposed legislation would in effect not be protected due to a lack of protection for providers carrying out activities on behalf of service providers, such as third-party providers contracted by universities. Various submissions also noted that the proposed safe harbour scheme fails to comply with the Australia-United States free trade obligations to provide liability limitations for service providers for copyright infringement.

These issues notwithstanding, the Australian Greens welcome the progress made in this bill, including the issues raised in this speech, along with the consideration of fair use and geoblocking. We will continue to work to ensure that the interests of both the creative and the innovative sectors and industries are protected, and we do not believe that these two things are mutually exclusive. Our future will be made brighter by Australian creators and innovators working together to deliver Australian content to the world. These two industries are fundamental to future work and play in our country, and the more support and protection we provide the more we are investing in jobs, particularly for young Australians. I thank the chamber for its time.