Feds drop safe harbour copyright shield

In an 11th-hour move which should be welcomed by photographers and other creators of content, the ‘safe harbour’ provisions in the Copyright Amendment Bill currently making its way through the Australian Parliament have been set aside

‘Provisions relating to safe harbour were removed from the Bill before its introduction to enable the Government to further consider feedback received on this proposal whilst not delaying the passage of other important reforms,’ explained Minister for Communications, Mitch Fifield (pictured right).

Nonetheless the bill does include measures to make it easier for students and educators to use copyright material by, for example, conducting exams online. Educational institutions and copyright collecting societies will have the flexibility to develop their own agreements for use of copyright material, instead of being constrained by definitive copyright law.

Libraries and archives will have greater flexibility in how they preserve content, and in providing greater access to, and use of, unpublished material that is historic and culturally valuable.

As outlined in an earlier articlesafe harbour provisions, which currently protect internet service providors from copyright infringement when their users post stolen copyrighted content on a website, were to be extended to the likes of Google, YouTube, Facebook and cloud storage services.

It has been argued that these businesses profit from copyright breaches, primarily via advertising running adjacent to stolen content. And while news aggregators like Google News dont generate their own content, they profits from hoovering up other publishers’ content and selling ads off the back of it.

Associations representing film-makers and musicians – and notably News Ltd – have lobbied against Australia adopting similar safe harbour provisions as are operating in Europe and the US.

In this case, Australia has benefitted from being slow to change its laws, as it has had time to see how extended safe harbour provisions have worked elsewhere. Businesses like Getty Images and creative industry associations have argued that Google etc, have not been acting in good faith – hiding behind US safe harbour provisions while allowing rampant and for them profitable copyright theft to flourish.

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