News August 17, 2020

APRA’s Dean Ormston hits out at proposed copyright reform

APRA’s Dean Ormston hits out at proposed copyright reform
APRA AMCOS/Dean Ormstron

CEO Dean Ormston has expressed concern that songwriters, composers and publishers will once again end up on the wrong end of new copyright reform.

The Morrison Government has proposed reform that ignore the rights of creators, explained Ormston in a statement.

“It always seems like music creators and performing artists are the ones continually asked to make concessions to those that use their content, even during the worst crisis to ever hit the music industry,” he said.

“While we will reserve judgment until we have seen the detail of the proposed reforms, we are concerned that they fail to recognise the significant impact COVID-19 has had on local songwriters, composers, music publishers and artists.”

Reform of the Copyright Act is a crucial, Ormston explained, for artists who still aren’t able to license the use of their music on digital platforms at fair commercial rates.

“Since 2013, APRA AMCOS has been asking the Government to clarify that the authorisation (secondary liability) provisions of the Copyright Act apply in the online environment just as they do in the physical world.

“This reform is a vital next step since the site-blocking legislation of 2015.”

Ormston fears that the latest reforms proposed by the government will once again leave “local songwriters, composers, publishers and artists will continue to have one armed tied behind their back licensing their content until meaningful reform for creators occurs.

“This request for help has never been more urgent given the influx of multi-territory social media video services, and the overnight move from physical venue music performances to online,” Ormston said.

It’s particularly crucial to get copyright reform right, as the industry and the creators at its centre continue to suffer from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

“The last six months have been devastating for local creators, who are all sole traders or small businesses,” Ormston added.

“But despite this, we have led the way in providing significant music users, including the education sector, with permission to use music in new online contexts, while licence fees have been either deferred, discounted or waived entirely.

“The recent announcement by the government fails to recognise these concessions and pursues an argument that users of creators’ content have been denied access to that content over the last six months. We challenge that proposition.

“We agree there are important steps to modernise copyright in Australia, but it really is past time for music creators to be better supported by any proposed reforms.”

Ormston pointed to a recent address by APRA chair Jenny Morris at the National Press Club where she painted a vision of Australia as a net exporter of Australian music.

“That is going to require a commitment to valuing the intellectual property of music creators.”

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