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Proposed retransmission legislation good news for Australian film + television industry

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A coalition of film industry bodies who represent both Australia’s creators and rights owners of copyright today appeared before a public Senate Committee enquiry into the Broadcasting Services Amendment Bill to present their case for the creation of a retransmission right.

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The right would require pay TV operators to compensate owners of underlying material in broadcasts for their retransmission of free-to-air broadcasting services

The Retransmission Coalition, which includes the Australian Writers' Guild, Australian Film Commission, SPAA (Screen Producers' Association of Australia) and APRA amongst others, has been formed to ensure that the commercial benefit of retransmission to cable providers is finally passed on to the owners of copyright in the content.

The primary focus of the Retransmission Coalition is the repeal of s i 99 (4) of the Copyright Act which allows for carte blanche retransmission Underlying rights owners have been seeking the repeal of this section since the establishment of pay television in Australia in 1995 and are seeking the establishment of a statutory licence to remunerate underlying rightholders whose programs are retransmitted.

Speaking this morning before the Senate Environment. Recreation. Communications and the Arts Legislation Committee, the Chief Executive of Screenrights* Simon Lake said the current result of Australia's law is that pay TV operators get "channels for nothing and programs for free".

'The establishment of a statutory licence is all about compensating underlying rights holders for an unauthorised third party use of their property.

"A retransmission right is not an extra slug or impost on pay TV operators as it has been painted in some circles.

"Retransmission should be understood simply in terms of a third party using someone’s property for an additional commercial use without their consent. Put in any other context, be it the use of someone's motor vehicle or house, this would be unacceptable and it is certainly unacceptable for intellectual property.

"So we welcome the recognition we've heard this morning by the Australian Subscription Television and Radio Association (ASTRA) that they recognise the issues with regard to copyright for underlying rights holders and their rights to compensation", Simon Lake said

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"The pay TV operators have had a three year free ride courtesy of s199 (4) of the Copyright Act and although the government has said enough is enough, underlying rights holders could be in the situation of having to wait many more years for the passage of the

Copyright Act, unless the political will from all sides of politics is there to promote the passage of the provisions relating to retransmission in the forthcoming Copyright Amendment Bill.

"We therefore call upon this Committee to recommend to the government the earliest introduction of amendments to the Copyright Act and that once the bill has been introduced, for the government to give this matter urgent legislative priority.

"Australia’s important content creation industries deserve and demand this priority.

"Every day is a bad day when underlying rights holders are missing out on being equitably compensated for the additional use of their works. We don’t want to many more bad days," Simon Lake said.

Background: The primary concern of the Retransmission Coalition is the government's announcement on 10 March 1998 of its decision to amend the Copyright Act to require pay TV operators to compensate owners of underlying material in broadcasts for their retransmission of free-to-air broadcasting services. The 10 March announcement flagged the changes to the Broadcasting Services Act which the Senate Committee is considering today and it also flagged amendments to the Copyright Act which will be released in the

next few weeks

Whilst the Retransmission Coalition recognises that the Broadcasting Services Amendment Bill does nothing to change this situation, the coalition has today called upon the Committee to note that if the Broadcasting Services Amendment Bill 1998 is passed by the Senate and proclaimed before the appropriate amendments are made to the Copyright Act, broadcasters will be paid for their signal whilst underlying rights holders will not be paid for the additional unauthorised use of their property.

*Screenrights is the non-profit collecting society established for the purposes of administering the statutory licence under Part VA of the Copyright Act, whereby programs can be copied off television and radio b y educational institutions for educational purposes. Screenrights has over 950 members in 35 countries.

Screennghts also collects cable retransmission royalties for its members in the United States of America, Canada and Europe This is undertaken by entering into agreements with administering bodies in these territories and registering titles with them

For further information and interviews, please contact: 21 August 1998

Simon Lake Virginia Gordon

Screenrights Media

m0413 057 860 m 0414 389 551

(Simon Lake in Canberra - before the Senate Committee at 10am)