Features November 3, 2016

Op-Ed: Australian artists will struggle under proposed Safe Harbour regime

Vanessa Hutley, General Manager for Music Rights Australia, has penned an opinion piece on the Australian Government’s plans to change the Safe Harbour regime. According to Hutley, the plans for the Copyright Amendment Bill will deal a massive blow to the creative community.


Why is the Government about to take a huge leap back in time by rushing through changes to the Copyright Act which will chip away at creators’ rights and their ability to be adequately rewarded for their work online?

The changes which the Government plans to make to the safe harbour regime in the Bill, which is confusingly called the Copyright Amendment (Disability Access and Other Measures) Bill, will place Australian law firmly in the year 2000 and contemplates an online environment of that date.

Even more worrying is that the rest of the world is doing exactly the opposite!

The US and EU are looking at the regimes which oversee the online landscape and are undertaking rigorous reviews and engaging in consultation with those who will be impacted by these changes to ensure their laws reflect the digital landscape of today’s internet and beyond.

Feeling confused? Well, you are not alone. The music community wonders why they were not asked about this proposed change and why it still cannot get an answer about the Government’s policy in making these changes when they will directly impact their commercial interests.

We stand ready to engage in productive discussions outside the pressure cooker environment of the parliamentary process to deliver a safe harbour regime which reflects the principles which underpin its creation and which is fit for purpose in the current digital landscape.

We know this type of out- of- parliament consultation works because this is precisely why the other two elements of the proposed Bill have wide support. Schedules 1 and 3 of the Bill are the product of focused consultation which led to consensus. The parties affected by those changes were given time and direction to reach agreement. This has delivered a good outcome for all.

So why is the Government steadfastly refusing to use a process which they know has delivered a good outcome?

Why is the Government making these controversial changes to the safe harbour regime without giving the creative community, which will be directly affected by them, the chance to drive the same kind of positive outcome?

We don’t know.

What we do know is that if Schedule 2 is presented to Parliament as drafted, members of the creative community will yet again have their ability to earn a living chipped away for no reason.

We have a great opportunity to review what is being done around the world and to use the information locally to implement the best possible safe harbour scheme.

But strangely when everyone else is looking forward our Government has its sights firmly focused on the past and an online world which only exists in history books.

Vanessa Hutley

General Manager, Music Rights Australia

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