New Copyright Bill Will End the Book Famine

A landmark Bill to end the book famine for Australians with a vision impairment is welcomed by peak copyright body the Australian Digital Alliance (ADA). This Bill makes important and long overdue changes to Australia’s copyright system to ensure that all Australians with a disability can access the same content as other Australians. 

As Mr Fletcher MP, Minister for Urban Infrastructure, said when tabling the Bill:

Even with the significant amount of digital content made available online, the vast majority of published material worldwide is not presently accessible to persons who are blind, visually impaired or who have a disability that affects the way a person reads, views, hears or comprehends copyright material.

The Copyright Amendment (Disability Access and Other Measures) Bill addresses this problem in Australia by removing bureaucratic barriers that currently block the provision of accessible format works to those with a disability. In doing so, it implements Australia’s obligations under the Marrakesh Treaty for the Blind and Vision Impaired and ensures we are world leaders in providing equitable access to information for all. 

The Bill also provides for critical copyright updates for students and cultural institutions. These welcome amendments will:

  • streamline  Australia’s copyright system for universities and schools, reducing administrative waste;
  • ensure libraries and other cultural institutions can protect their collections for future generations; and
  • free millions of manuscripts that are currently locked out of reach behind outdated copyright laws for use by all Australians, including letters by Jane Austen and Captain Cook’s diaries. 

The ADA is, however, extremely disappointed that the government has without notice removed the extension of Australia’s copyright safe harbours included in the exposure draft of the Bill. These amendments would have ensured service providers and copyright owners work together to fight online piracy, delivering legal certainty, reducing risk and minimising cost. Instead, Australia still doesn’t have a workable system for the removal of pirated material online.

The ADA’s Executive Officer, Jessica Coates, said:

Australian startups are already being sued for actions over which they have no control, because of the lack of an effective safe harbour system. Schools, universities and libraries providing online services to millions of Australians are equally vulnerable to attack. 

These organisations remain at a competitive disadvantage to their international peers in countries such as the US, Singapore, South Korea and Japan where the safe harbours apply universally. And without the protections provided by the safe harbours, Australian consumers have no recourse against frivolous and incorrect takedown of material they share on popular platforms. 

The amendments provided by the Bill are an important initial step in ensuring Australia’s copyright system remains fit for purpose in the digital age. We look forward to more reforms along these lines as part of the Government’s forthcoming response to the Productivity Commission’s Intellectual Property Inquiry.

About the ADA 
The ADA is a non-profit coalition of public and private sector interests formed to provide an effective voice for a public interest perspective in the copyright debate. ADA members include universities, schools, disability groups, libraries, galleries, museums, technology companies, and individuals. Whilst the breadth of ADA membership spans various sectors, all members are united in their support of copyright law that balances the interests of rights holders with the interests of users of copyright material. 

Media Contact 
Jessica Coates: 

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