UNIVERSITIES Australia has backed the Australian Law Reform Commission’s call for copyright restrictions to be eased under so-called “fair use” exemptions in line with laws in the US.
The ALRC released its recommendations from an 18 month inquiry on Friday calling for flexible principles of “fair use” to replace the current detailed prescriptive laws that govern exemptions to copyright. It said the fair use principles would build on existing “fair dealing” exemptions. It argues that “fair use” would be in the public interest and stimulate innovation while balancing the rights of rights holders. As a second-best option the ALRC has recommended that instead of adopting “fair use,” the “fair dealing” exemptions could be extended, particularly benefiting the use of materials in education.
On Friday Attorney-General George Brandis said he was unconvinced that a flexible fair use model would be feasible, but said the operation of copyright law can be improved. “I remain to be persuaded that this is the best direction for Australian law, but nevertheless I will bring an open and inquiring mind to the debate. I am convinced that we can do much to improve how copyright works in this country,” Senator Barndis said.
Universities Australia said “fair use” would “ensure that Australia has a regime delivering the flexibility that is so urgently needed to encourage research and innovation, while still protecting the rights of copyright owners.”
“The present inflexible copyright exceptions, together with the educational statutory licences, limit the ability of Australian universities to create and disseminate knowledge, and place the higher education sector at an international competitive disadvantage.”
Chief Executive of Universities Australia Belinda Robinson said universities currently have to pay copying fees on material that universities in other jurisdictions like the US don’t have to pay.
“Fair use would remove obstacles that currently stand in the way of Australian universities fully utilising digital technology, and would bring our copyright law in line with comparable jurisdictions,” she said.
ANDREW TROUNSON, theaustralian.com.au, photo by mikemeh