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Thursday, 10 May 2018
Page: 2893

Senator O'NEILL (New South Wales) (13:21): I rise to speak on the Copyright Amendment (Service Providers) Bill 2017. This bill would extend the operation of the safe harbour scheme set out in the Copyright Act 1968 to a broader range of service providers. Labor have long advocated for this change, and we've worked with the government to bring this bill forward.

The existing safe harbour scheme established by the Copyright Act protects carriage service providers—in particular, internet service providers such as Telstra and Optus—from the civil liability they would otherwise be exposed to for hosting or communicating material that infringes copyright. To be able to rely on this legal safe harbour created by the Copyright Act, the carriage service provider needs to demonstrate that they operate a scheme for removing copyright-infringing material if they are notified of such material by a rights holder.

This bill would extend that safe harbour scheme beyond carriage service providers to include education institutions through their administering bodies, including universities, schools, technical colleges, training bodies and preschools. It would also include libraries that either make their collection available to the public or are parliamentary libraries through their administering bodies. It would include archives through their administering bodies, including the National Archives of Australia and specified state archives, galleries and museums; key cultural institutions through their administering bodies, including specific archives and libraries that are not open to the public; and organisations assisting persons with a disability.

The extension of the safe harbour scheme pursuant to this bill is generally supported by rights holders and their peak groups because it provides a social good without undermining the commercial interests of content creators or their capacity to negotiate effectively with commercial enterprises for the distribution of their copyright materials. Labor supports this bill because it's founded on the principle that passive carriers with no control over the material carried on internet services should not be liable for copyright infringement, provided they take steps to remove infringing content when they are notified of its use.

Labor have consulted widely on this bill, and we support it because it will provide greater legal protections for our schools, universities, libraries and cultural institutions to operate efficiently in this digital age. At the same time, this bill balances the interests of right holders with those of important education and cultural institutions that will benefit from the extended protections provided under the expanded safe harbour scheme. This is in part because the entities protected by the expanded safe harbour scheme established by this bill do not benefit financially from use of content on their networks, and so these reforms, importantly, do not distort the commercial market.

In contrast, the more radical changes to our copyright laws supported by the Greens party in their dissenting report on this bill have the capacity to undermine the capacity of Australian artists, musicians, authors and other rights holders to negotiate viable commercial arrangements for the distributions of their work. The changes wanted by the Greens blithely ignore the serious concerns expressed by Australia's artists and creative industries, in favour of the arguments put forward by some of the world's most profitable companies, in particular US tech giants. The US scheme of massively expanded safe harbour that the Greens have argued we should adopt here in Australia has been the subject of ongoing criticism in the United States and, in fact, is currently being reviewed by US lawmakers.

Given the divergence of stakeholder views, the complexity of the issues being considered and the current review of the safe harbour scheme in the United States, Labor does not believe that we should be charging ahead with reforms that have the potential to cause great damage to Australian artists, to our creative industries and to our culture. Labor supports the bill before us today as a balanced and reasonable approach to copyright reform, and we'll continue our consultations with stakeholders on whether further changes to the legal safe harbour scheme under the Copyright Act may be desirable.