Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 19 October 2006
Page: 1

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

That this bill be now read a second time.

The Copyright Amendment Bill 2006 introduces significant reforms to the Copyright Act 1968 demonstrating the Howard government’s ongoing commitment to having an effective, world-class and up-to-date copyright regime.

Australians are great adopters of technology. We have world-class musicians, film makers and other creative industries. The bill ensures we have a copyright regime that keeps pace with the needs of Australian copyright creators and copyright consumers.

Keeping pace with changing technology is not easy. When this government passed the Copyright Amendment (Digital Agenda) Act in 2000, the legislation was groundbreaking—putting Australia at the forefront as one of the first countries in the world to update its copyright laws to deal with the digital revolution.

But since then the internet and digital technologies have created new challenges and opportunities affecting copyright. For consumers, more copyright material is available online and can be easily transferred into different formats. Copyright owners have new distribution channels. But the owners also face challenges such as widespread unauthorised file sharing of music and films.

The government is committed to dealing with these challenges to copyright head-on, while seeking to acknowledge the opportunities technology presents. We want laws in place which mean copyright pirates are penalised for flouting the law. And we want to make sure that ordinary consumers are not infringing the law through everyday use of copyright products they have legitimately purchased.

These important reforms include new exceptions to make our copyright laws more sensible and defensible. The bill also introduces new offences and enforcement measures to ensure that those who seek to undermine the legitimate rights of copyright owners can be brought to account. These balanced and practical reforms will ensure the effectiveness of our copyright laws in the dynamic environment that we face.

New exceptions

The bill introduces several new exceptions to copyright in response to the government’s ‘fair use’ review.

First, the reforms recognise that the common consumer practices of ‘time shifting’ broadcasts and ‘format shifting’ some copyright material should be permissible.

This bill will amend the Copyright Act to make it legal for people to tape TV or radio programs in order to play them at a more convenient time.

It will also be legal to reproduce material such as music, newspapers and books into different formats for private use—this means that people can transfer music from CDs they already own onto their iPods or other music players. Millions of consumers will no longer be breaching the law when they record their favourite TV program or copy CDs they own into a different format.

These reforms are innovative and technology is rapidly changing. I note there has been some commentary on the technical aspects of the exposure draft of the bill in relation to format shifting to iPods. That is why the drafts of this bill were made publicly available for comment. The government will listen to and consider comments and make any necessary technical changes to ensure the bill achieves the government’s objectives.

There are also new exceptions to provide flexibility to allow copyright material to be used for certain socially useful purposes, where this does not significantly harm the interests of copyright owners. The bill also provides for an exception to allow cultural and educational institutions and certain individuals to make use of copyright where that use does not undermine the copyright owner’s normal market. This will provide some of the benefits that the fair use doctrine provides in the United States under their law.

Another exception allows people with disabilities that may affect their capacity to access copyright material to be able to make use of that material to better access it.

A further exception promotes free speech and Australia’s fine tradition of satire by allowing our comedians and cartoonists to use copyright material for the purposes of parody or satire.

The needs of our educational and cultural institutions are also addressed in the bill. By giving schools, universities, libraries and archives the chance to use copyright material for non-commercial purposes, they will be able to better assist their users in the online environment.

Technological protection measures

In our online world, copyright owners are facing an increasing battle to protect their copyright material and develop business models.

Technological protection measures, or TPMs as they are referred to, such as technical locks, passwords or encryption, are an essential tool for the protection of copyright material, especially in the online environment. They provide an effective means for copyright owners to protect their material against the threat of piracy.

The bill provides for more effective TPM protection to encourage distribution of copyright material online and increase the availability of music, film and games in digital form.

This, in turn, will foster the development of new business models and provide enhanced choice for consumers.

The liability scheme established by the bill will target people who circumvent TPMs, in addition to those who manufacture or supply devices or services used for circumvention.

However, the liability scheme also provides for specific exceptions in the bill and copyright regulations in accordance with recommendations of the report of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. In addition, the bill will create an exception for ‘region coding’ devices and allow Australian consumers to use multizone DVD players.

I now table the government’s response to the Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs’ Review of Technological Protection Measures Exceptions. I want to thank the committee for its work in this difficult and technical, but very important, area.

Enforcement measures

In the digital environment it is not enough that our law supports copyright owners in their efforts to technologically protect their material.

The reality is that it has become increasingly easier to infringe copyright. The bill therefore introduces reforms aimed at tackling copyright piracy online and at our markets and borders.

The bill will create indictable, summary and strict liability offences with a range of penalty options. The strict liability offences will be underpinned by an infringement notice scheme in the Copyright Regulations. This will give law enforcement officers a wider range of options depending on the seriousness of the relevant conduct, ranging from infringement notices for more minor offences, to initiating criminal proceedings to strip copyright pirates of their profits in more serious cases. These offences are aimed at copyright pirates who profit at the expense of our creators.

While technological advancements have made it easier for people to infringe copyright on a large scale, this has also made it more difficult to prove specific acts of infringement.

The bill also contains amendments to evidential presumption provisions in civil and criminal proceedings to assist copyright owners in the litigation process.

The bill contains amendments to give a court enhanced power to grant relief to copyright owners in civil actions which involve commercial-scale electronic infringement. In such cases, a court will be able to take into account likely infringements as well as a proved infringement in deciding what relief to grant.

Amendments to the Customs ‘notice of objection’ provisions will reduce the administrative and cost burden on rights holders in lodging notices and providing security for notices. The bill ensures that the notice of objection provisions in the act remain consistent with changes made by the Trade Marks Amendment Act 2006.

Unauthorised access to pay TV

Other key enforcement measures are new offences to tackle unauthorised access and use of pay TV services.

Copyright Tribunal

There are also amendments to enhance the jurisdiction and procedures of the Copyright Tribunal. These implement the government’s response to the Copyright Law Review Committee’s Report on the jurisdiction and procedures of the Copyright Tribunal.

Reference of the bill to Senate LACA Committee for report

As foreshadowed, this bill will be referred to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee for inquiry and report.

Exposure drafts of most of the amendments were made available to the public from my department’s website prior to introduction of the bill to give interested parties the opportunity to consider them and prepare any comments for submission to the Senate committee. I look forward to the committee’s report.

This bill is wide ranging but it is also targeted. It targets piracy, not the legitimate everyday behaviour of Australian consumers and institutions.

I commend the bill to the House.

Debate (on motion by Mr Snowdon) adjourned.