Australian artists are banding together to fight a proposed change to Australia’s online copyright law known as ‘safe harbour’, which they say will undeniably make it more difficult for them to be fairly paid for the content they create.
Over 200 artists and managers, including John Farnham, Shannon Noll, The Avalanches, Guy Sebastian, Delta Goodrem, The Living End, Gotye, RÜFÜS, Sarah Blasko and Tkay Maidza have lent their names to a campaign to stop the Federal Government from expanding ‘safe harbour’ laws.
‘Safe harbour’ currently protects Internet Service Providers (ISPs) from liability if their customers upload copyrighted music using their service, essentially because the ISP isn’t seeking to profit from the actions of those customers.
However, proposed changes to the laws could see sites like YouTube and Facebook also safeguarded against liability if their users were to upload music illegally. This would be especially problematic, as those sites would then be potentially profiting from the copyright-infringing activities of their users, through ads.
The group of over 200 Australian musicians against the changes have lent their names to an open letter to the Government, calling on it to drop the “outdated changes”, which will “chip away at a music creator’s rights to be remunerated fairly for their creative endeavors”.
General Manager for Music Rights Australia Vanessa Hutley tells News Corp Australia that allowing sites who advertise to be protected would be completely different from the safeguarding ISPs. “Once you create a conversation about it, saying ‘hey, look at this’, with ads around it, you are in a different world,” she says.
“You are not passive. You essentially have a commercial interest in that content over and above being a pipe.”
In an Op-Ed piece for The Music Network, Hutley says the proposed changes would be “a huge leap back in time” for the creative community, and would make it increasingly difficult to maintain “creators’ rights and their ability to be adequately rewarded for their work online”.
She goes on to question why no one in the music community was consulted about the changes, and ponders why this is happening in Australia at the same time that the US and EU “are looking at the regimes which oversee the online landscape and are undertaking rigorous reviews and engaging in consultation with those who will be impacted by these changes to ensure their laws reflect the digital landscape of today’s internet and beyond”.
A spokesperson for Communications Minister Mitch Fifield has welcomed the advice of those in the music industry, saying, “The Government is aware of stakeholder views on the extension of the safe harbour scheme and is continuing to carefully consider these.”
Here’s the open letter from Music Rights Australia, and its full list of signees: