Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Highways to change: the report of the Copyright Convergence Group

Australia's copyright law will undergo urgent reform to ensure its effectiveness in a rapidly changing communications environment, the Minister for Justice, Duncan Kerr said today.

"It has become increasingly clear that the Copyright Act 1968 in its current form dose not adequately provide for new technologies such as satellite and cable television services and a range of other new models of information and entertainment service delivery.

"With this in mind, in October last year I announced my intention to establish the Copyright Convergence Group. The Group was formed on January 7, 1994. The role of the CCG was to report back to me on legislative reform proposals to render the Act technology- neutral in anticipation of new broadband services."

The Group has produced its report, "Highways to Change - Copyright in the New Communications Environment." The Minister met with the members of the Group in Sydney today before publicly releasing the report.

The Report contains a number of firm recommendations for immediate legislative amendment. These aim to remedy deficiencies in the Act in need of urgent reform.

Among key recommendations:

. A new right of technology neutral, broad based right to authorise transmission to the public should be introduced to cover the transmission of copyright material in intangible form to the public by any means or combination of means which is capable of being made perceivable or used by a receiving device. This new transmission right should be given to all copyright owners.

. The right to broadcast should be retained in the Act as part of the new transmission right. The definition of broadcast for this purpose should include all transmissions made by providers of broadcasting services under the Broadcasting Services Act 1992, or as part of the national broadcasting service of the ABC or SBS but exclude other transmission to the public such as on- demand services, interactive services and computer networking of material.

Mr Kerr said, "The Government will waste no time in preparing its response to the CCG Report.

"The fundamental changes being proposed aim to strike the correct balance between the valid interests of intellectual property rights owners and the public interest in fair and reasonable access to a wide range of information."

In its terms of reference, the CCG was asked to address those areas of the Act in most urgent need of reform. The Copyright Law Review Committee will receive a more wide- ranging reference early next year aimed at simplifying the Act after a more detailed analysis of technological advances.

"When the copyright legislation was enacted 25 years ago, the major forms of communications were transistor radios, black and white televisions and a postal service made slow by the transport of the time. A year later millions watched the moon landing as it happened via satellite. Today, messages and images are transmitted instantaneously on vast information networks which span the globe," Mr Kerr said.

"Like the times, the Copyright Act has to change."

"The new convergence technologies have enormous potential to strengthen the local economy and the links between Australia and the global community.

"It is vital for our future export economy that we vigorously promote the growth of these technologies within Australia.

"This Government is absolutely committed to putting in place a legal framework which will allow us, as a nation, to become world- leaders in this knowledge based, value added growth sector.

"Doing this will allow Australia to overcome the tyranny of distance which has affected it as a trading nation in the past."

Mr Kerr congratulated the CCG members,: Ms Victoria Rubensohn (Chair), Professor Mark Armstrong, Mr Peter Banki and Mr Malcolm Colless, on the excellent standard of the report and its timely delivery. Mr Kerr also thanked Group Coordinator, Bridget Godwin, and assistant, Marea Allen, for their invaluable contributions.

Media contact: Cassandra O'Connor 06 277 7260 or 018 481 423.