News February 16, 2017

Indigenous artists respond to proposed copyright law changes

Charts & New Music Editor
Indigenous artists respond to proposed copyright law changes

Jessica Mauboy and Briggs are among a group of Australian Indigenous identities who have signed an open letter to the government condemning the recommendations of the Productivity Commission to alter the nation’s copyright law.

Under the proposed changes to Australia’s longstanding copyright policy, the Commission has suggested that the length of ownership and control of a copyrighted work be reduced from 70 years after the work was made to only 25 years, reducing the period by more than half.

The report, which was controversially published late last year, petitions that “overly long term [copyright] reduces community access to valuable works.” It also highlights studies and statistics that indicate that a “term of 25 years enables rights holders to generate revenue comparable to what they would receive in perpetuity (in present value terms).”

Indigenous artists Jessica Mauboy, Briggs, Troy Cassar-Daley and Dan Sultan, as well as sports identity Adam Goodes and filmmaker Mervyn Bishop, expressed their dissatisfaction with the Commission in the open letter, claiming that many indigenous artists in future generations will struggle to make a living.

“Ownership is also a way of economic empowerment for those artists who earn money from selling, reselling and reproducing their works,” the letter reads.

It continues: “The recommendations to change copyright protections will harm the ability of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander film and television makers, writers, artists, musicians and journalists to tell Indigenous stories and make a living.”

The letter lists various artists and culturally significant Indigenous works that their kids “should be able to grow up with,” and makes a statement that “ownership, responsibility and control by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples of their cultural heritage is paramount.”  

While copyright is a nationally and globally contested topic, the debate has commonly centered around the exploitation and regulation of works in the digital environment brought about by content sharing and streaming. However, the proposed changes to the duration of a copyright will overturn copyright policies that have stood for decades.

The Productivity Commission is the Australian Government’s independent research and advisory body on a range of economic, social and environmental issues affecting the welfare of Australians.


Below is a list of all the names and organisations that signed the open letter:


Vernon Ah Kee (Artist)

Jada Alberts (Actor, Writer, Director)

Dave Arden (Musician)

Bronwyn Bancroft (Artist, Fashion Designer and Copyright Agency Board Member)

Bibi Barba (Artist)

William Baron (Performer, Composer)

Larissa Behrendt (Filmmaker, Academic)

Richard Bell (Artist)

Kevin Bennett (Musician)

Rachel Bin Salleh (Publisher)

Mervyn Bishop (Filmmaker)

Wayne Blair (Filmmaker, Director, Actor)

Brendon Boney (Singer, Songwriter)

Adam Briggs (Musician, Writer and Actor)

Troy Cassar-Daley (Musician)

Beck Cole (Director and Screenwriter)

Brenda Croft (Curator, Academic)

Julie Dowling (Artist)

Leah Flanagan (Singer,Songwriter)

Julie Gough (Artist, Writer and Curator)

Aroha Groves (Artist, Designer)

Anita Heiss (Author, Presenter and Commentator)

Rarriwuy Hicks (Actor)

Terri Janke (Copyright Lawyer)

Melissa Lucashenko (Writer)

Jessica Mauboy (Singer, songwriter, Actress)

Rachael Maza (Artistic Director, Actor, Narrator)

Philip McLaren (Author,Academic)

Sally Morgan (Author, Dramatist)

Hunter Page-Lochard (Actor)

Bruce Pascoe (Writer, Teacher,Historian)

Sandra Phillips (Academic, Chair of the First Nations Australia Writers’ Network (FNAWN) and Chair of the Advisory Board of the Centre for Indigenous Story)

Leah Purcell (Actor, Director, Writer)

Kim Scott (Novelist, Writer)

Shari Sebbens (Actor)

Bjorn Stewart (Actor, Writer)

Dan Sultan (Singer, Songwriter)

Jared Thomas (Author, Playwright, Poet, Academic)

Gina Williams (Singer, Songwriter)

Tara June Winch (Writer)

Jason Wing (Artist)

AACHWA (Peak body for Aboriginal Art Centres across Western Australia)

Boomalli (Aboriginal Artists Co-operative representing 50 artists)

Desart (representing over 40 Central Australian Aboriginal Art Centres)

Indigenous Art Centre Alliance (Representing 13 arts centres across far north Queensland)

Koori Heritage Trust

Moogahlin Performing Arts Incorporated

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