The Federal Government’s Productivity Commission has today released the findings of a 12-month inquiry into intellectual property arrangements in Australia, and the findings could make it significantly more difficult for Australian musicians to be fairly paid for their own content online.
In a statement today APRA AMCOS labelled the report “a blunt attack on Australia’s creative industries, unashamedly promoting the interests of those who exploit Australian content over those who create it.”
Among a raft of other areas, the report looked into the potential to expand ‘safe harbour’ laws online which currently protects Internet Service Providers 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.
The report suggests expanding the safe harbour scheme to cover “all online service providers,” in a move that will will allign Australia with international systems and work towards “facilitating greater innovation.”
While that may sound great on the surface, the propose changes could also see sites like YouTube and Facebook also safeguarded against liability if their users were to upload music illegally. This is especially problematic because those sites would then be potentially profiting from the copyright-infringing activities of their users, through ads.
After the draft report was released in October a group of over 200 musicians including John Farnham, Shannon Noll, The Avalanches, Guy Sebastian, Delta Goodrem, The Living End and Gotye joined forces to rally against the expansion of ‘safe harbour’ laws.
Today APRA AMCOS said that the proposed amendments don’t reflect the current digital environment and will see laws introduced that are not “fit for purpose.” They are also “dismayed” that the Commission completely ignored the submissions from musicians as well as evidence provided by the Australian music community during the consultation process.
“The Commission’s recommendations demonstrate a profound lack of understanding of the commercial realities of the Australian content business,” said the statement. “It is well documented that the application of safe harbours to certain digital services in the US has resulted in a ‘value gap’ – a massive mismatch between the consumption of music on user upload services, such as YouTube, and the revenues returned to songwriters and artists.”
“The Commission’s final report endorses all the recommendations in its draft report, and introduces a raft of new proposals, all of which are singularly aimed at weakening Australia’s existing copyright regime – the economic framework around which Australia’s creative industries are built,” said APRA AMCOS Chief Executive Brett Cottle.
Cottle says that the proposed changes will allow global companies to reduce their bottom line, “to the detriment of Australian music creators,” and can’t understand why the changes would be proposed now, ““At a time when artists and the wider music industry are finally starting to see a return from streaming services.”
APRA AMCOS will respond in full to the final report in early 2017.