Australian report shows fair use vital in copyright reform

InternetNZ welcomes the report of the Australian Productivity Commission into intellectual property arrangements.

“Our Australian neighbours are asking how they can enable and benefit from local innovation,” says InternetNZ Chief Executive Jordan Carter.

“The report is focused on Australia, but has some lessons New Zealand can learn from. We encourage the Government to consider those lessons as it kicks off the review of the Copyright Act next year.”

The report examines Australia’s intellectual property arrangements, which in general are similar to New Zealand’s. It proposes specific reforms to help Australian laws keep up with changing technology, and to promote innovation.

In particular, the report proposes a broad and flexible “fair use” exception for copyright. InternetNZ has supported the inclusion of such an exception in New Zealand’s copyright law for some time.

The proposed exception would replace more specific copyright exceptions which allow users to do things like quote parts of a copyright work for purposes of criticism. The report favours a more flexible approach, to keep the law relevant as technologies change over time.

The report also recommends clarifying that bypassing “geoblocks,” to access legitimate content from offshore providers is not infringement. This is consistent with how physical goods are treated - New Zealand allows parallel importing of books and CDs, and this recommendation would extend that treatment to online services.

“Countries protect intellectual property rights to reward creativity, and to support the benefits of continued innovation,” says Carter.

“One lesson from this report is that overly rigid intellectual property rules can make it harder to share good ideas. Such laws risk undermining the innovation which gives us beneficial new technologies and creative new works.

“With the TPP off the agenda, the Government will soon be taking a fresh look at how New Zealand can best enable and benefit from innovative uses of the Internet and other technologies, through the upcoming review of the Copyright Act.

“New Zealand can take some innovative lessons from our nearest neighbour. It would be a shame to miss out on the ideas they have so carefully considered,” says Carter.