Canberra
24 March 2017
Reporter: Barney Dixon

Safe harbour reforms dropped from Australian bill


Safe harbour reforms have been dropped from Australia’s Copyright Amendment Bill at its zero hour.

The bill, which introduces measures to streamline and simplify the copyright framework for the disability, education, library and archive sectors, while respecting the interests of copyright holders, had just received approval from Australia Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Google and Facebook are among well-known tech companies backing the bill.

But proposed safe harbour amendments, which would have enhanced safe harbour protections for technology platforms, including search engines and social networks, were removed at the last minute.

Mitch Fifield, minister for communications, said the provisions were removed to “enable the government to further consider feedback received on this proposal whilst not delaying the passage of other important reforms”.

The rest of the bill will continue on to parliament for government approval.

The bill will enable fair access to copyrighted material in suitable formats. The government said that this “reflects the government’s commitment to improving accessibility to published material for persons with disability following the ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty”.

It also includes measures for students and educators to use copyrighted material in the digital education environment.

Rights holders groups and associations previously rejected the safe harbour amendments, arguing that a system of user rights would redress the imbalance of copyright.

In a joint statement, the Australian Society of Authors and the Australian Recording Industry Association said that while Australia’s copyright exceptions are “no longer fit for purpose”, the “introduction of a US-style ‘fair use’ exception and expansion of the safe harbour provisions will make it easier for these large organisations to use Australian content without fair payment and will mean less production of Australian stories”.

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