1.1 The Australian Greens welcome the incremental
progress that this bill makes in bringing Australian copyright laws up to date
and in line with other countries.
1.2 We do not support the piecemeal manner in which
the Government are addressing the long overdue updating of Australian copyright
1.3 We do not support the limited definition of 'service
providers' used in this bill, which excludes Australian tech companies and
online content providers, stifling innovation and the ability of Australian
tech companies to compete internationally.
1.4 We do not believe that this bill achieves the
necessary balance between the rights and protections of content providers and
1.5 We do not believe that this bill will be effective
in achieving the policy objectives, due to the lack of protection provided for
third-party organisations carrying out activities on behalf of service
1.6 In 2013, Senator Scott Ludlam introduced the
Copyright Legislation Amendment (Fair Go for Fair Use) Bill 2013, which
included four reforms to copyright law that would:
- Remove digital locks or technical protection measures that
lock-up content and restrict visually impaired people from utilising audio
editions of e-books or converting a text book into braille.
- Create a 'safe harbour' to prevent Australian universities,
schools, cultural institutions, content service providers and internet service
providers from being sued for what others may do with material to which those
organisations have allowed access.
- Remove geocodes that enforce different prices and conditions of
use of content by Australian consumers, thus removing a barrier to Australians
purchasing legitimate content from overseas.
Introduce a 'fair use' exception in the Copyright Act to support
digital innovation and promote access to collections in Australian cultural
institutions. The fair use provisions would allow the 'fair use' of copyrighted
work for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching,
scholarship or research without that use being an infringement of copyright.
1.7 In 2017, the Copyright Amendment (Disability
Access and Other Measures) Bill 2017 was passed, which included the disability
access archiving measures proposed in 2013 by Senator Ludlam.
1.8 Some of the key issues still outstanding under
Australia's outdated copyright laws include:
- Operating a search engine in Australia risks infringing
- Australian schools are spending millions of dollars to use
content that is freely available online, such as free tourism maps or fact
sheets for treating head lice.
It is illegal to remove digital locks from a legally purchased
e-book in order to read it on a different device or back it up.
- Music can be copied from a CD to a tablet but not a purchased DVD.
- Playing an online video in a presentation to a group is illegal.
- Comedians can use material in parody or satire but artists can't
use the same material for art.
1.9 In December 2016, the Productivity Commission
reported on Australia's Intellectual Property Arrangements and recommended that
'Australian Government should expand the safe harbour scheme to cover not just
carriage service providers, but all providers of online services'.
Extending Safe Harbours
1.10 Currently Australian universities, libraries,
schools, digital innovators, cultural institutions, and tech companies provide
internet services without the benefit of the same safe harbour as their
equivalents overseas. A Safe Harbour would allow content providers to make
information and culture available online and will be protected by common
activities—transmitting data, caching, hosting and referring users to an online
location—where service providers do not control, initiate, or direct the users'
online activities are currently not covered by the scheme.
1.11 The Bill defines 'Service Provider' to be a carriage
service provider; an organisation assisting persons with a disability; or a
body administering a library, archives, cultural institution or educational
institution. This extension of the Safe Harbour protection is supported by the
majority of the submissions to the inquiry on the legalisation. However, these
protections are not extended to digital innovators or tech companies.
1.12 Many of the submissions cited the need to also
include internet and content service providers in the Safe Harbour exception
and to further review Australia's copyright laws. The submissions in support of
this expansion of Safe Harbours came from digital innovators, tech companies,
Government bodies, libraries, and independent advocates.
1.13 National and State Libraries Australia stated that 'extending safe harbours to commercial service providers would
assist libraries to clarify potential liability and reduce risk associated with
projects and initiatives undertaken in partnership with commercial entities.'
1.14 National Archives of Australia 'supports further extension of the safe harbour protection to all online
service providers, including commercial platforms. We engage and participate
with commercial players, such as the Google Cultural Institute, to deliver
innovative digital activities. Affording them the same protections will help to
address the problems of online infringement.'
1.15 SBS states that 'SBS supports the Bill, which proposes to expand the existing safe
harbour regime to a limited range of other service providers, including SBS.
However, we note that it is only one small piece in the puzzle of copyright law
reform, and that there is much still to be done before Australia has a flexible
future-proof copyright legal regime.'
1.16 The Law Council of Australia notes 'that extension of the safe harbours, to all service providers, has been
proposed in a number of reviews now, including most recently in the Final
Report of the Australian Productivity Commission's Inquiry into Intellectual
Property Arrangements (Recommendation 19.1).'
1.17 Optus urges government to extend safe harbour to
online platforms and states that extending safe harbour is critical to
Australia's digital future for the following reasons:
- These changes will bring Australia into line with many of our
major trading partners, including the US, UK, Singapore, South Korea and Japan.
This will give local start-ups a fair go against the competition;
- Safe harbour creates more jobs: Google, Facebook, YouTube,
Snapchat, Reddit and Pinterest employ over 90,000 people directly but these
platforms don't base their operations in Australia because of our outdated
- Importantly safe harbour helps prevent piracy and protects
content creators by providing a clear framework to take down pirate content in
a fast, easy and affordable way. This in turn makes it harder to access illegal
content which is good for content creators;
- Lastly, as the Australian Information Industry Association points
out, the economic impact on Australian content creators cannot be reduced by
limiting safe harbour in Australia because most Australian content is hosted on
platforms that already operate within other safe harbour regimes. Limiting safe
harbour only serves to discourage innovation without a corresponding benefit to
content creators. 
1.18 Redbubble states the following reasons for the need
to extend the safe harbour protection to commercial online service providers:
- Safe harbours recognise the realities for Australian platforms
that host user generated content and provide a fair and effective process for
managing infringement on user generated content platforms;
- Safe harbour protection is critical for the fostering of
innovation in the Australian technology sector and promoting Australia's
- A safe harbour would promote collaboration between all parties
(content owners, artists and platforms) in the fight against infringement; and
- The limited safe harbour extension in the Bill applying only to
the education sector and NFP sector will be impracticable to administer.
1.19 Google notes that 'the Draft Bill's narrow safe harbour scheme places Australian-based
startups and online service providers—including individual bloggers, websites,
small startups, video-hosting services, enterprise cloud companies, auction
sites, online marketplaces, hosting providers for real-estate listings, photo
hosting services, search engines, review sites, and online platforms—in a
disadvantaged position compared with global startups in countries that have
strong safe harbour frameworks, such as the United States, Canada, United
Kingdom, Singapore, South Korea, Japan, and other EU countries.'
1.20 Digital Rights Watch notes that extending the safe
harbour to all service providers benefits all parties for the following
- It increase certainty and reduces legal risk for emerging
Australian content hosts and tech startups, decreasing the risk of flight to
more hospitable jurisdictions (like the United States).
- It provides a clear procedure for copyright owners to request
content to be removed from the internet, particularly benefiting small
Australian copyright businesses.
- It provides due process safeguards for the legitimate interests
of ordinary Australian users and digital media entrepreneurs who have been
either inadvertently or maliciously subject to spurious takedown requests.
Without a safe harbour regime, service providers are left to
their discretion to make judgments about whether content should be removed or
not. This is a system with little transparency and almost no due process
protections. A legal, regulated system is a much better option to protect the
rights of publishers and authors online.
1.21 Re:Create notes the importance of safe habours for
Separating out safe harbors and having them apply to only
certain not-for-profits and educational-focused institutions fails to recognize
the important role that commercial platforms play in enabling the massive
creative democratization provided by the internet. Instead, Australia should
provide safe harbors to all. Tens of millions of people are now creating and
sharing things globally on a host of different commercial platforms. Some are
making money, others are not. But they now have outlets for the creative ideas
that simply would not exist without safe harbors for commercial platforms.
1.22 The Computer & Communications Industry
Association states that the proposed legislation 'will significantly
disadvantage Internet services who seek to operate in the Australian market and
will impede creativity and innovation online.' They also note that:
...the bill pointedly leaves out commercial service providers including
online platforms. This exclusion overlooks the fact that many of the non-profit
and educational institutions that would be nominally protected by the revised
safe harbour in fact rely heavily on the private sector and contract for
digital services from commercial providers to meet the needs of their
constituencies. To extend protection to these institutions while withholding it
from the service providers who in fact serve as the intermediaries renders the
proposed exception largely meaningless. Moreover, the failure to include online
services such as search engines and commercial content distribution services
will also harm digital services in Australia and the opportunity for growth of
the domestic startup economy. A comprehensive safe harbour, on the other hand,
would place Australian innovators on equal footing as competitors in other
Pacific countries that have a more robust framework for online services
including South Korea and Singapore.
Rightsholders have argued that expansion of these safe
harbours would lead to mass piracy. This argument fails to recognize the record
of success of both online innovators and content creators in markets with
robust safe harbours. Reports show that the U.S. safe harbour framework—which
is available to all online service providers—has enabled the production of
music, movies, books, and video games which are exported all over the world.
This is why many companies, artists, designers, and consumers have urged
Australia to meet its commitments regarding safe harbour protections.
1.23 The Australian Information Industry Association 'urges government to extend the safe harbour provisions to online platforms',
noting that extending the safe harbour 'creates more jobs and protects content
creators from piracy' and 'puts local businesses on an even playing field with
key competitors, builds home grown talent and keeps them here (paying taxes)'.
1.24 The Australian Digital Alliance 'strongly believe that the Bill should be amended to incorporate all service
providers, including online platforms and marketplaces.' They state that:
Further extending the definition of "service provider"
in Australia's safe harbour system to include technology companies would have
the following benefits:
- it would align our law with international norms, and ensure
Australian creators, consumers and service providers do not operate at a
disadvantage to their international peers;
- it would provide Australian creators and consumers with a simple,
low cost and effective method of dealing with illegal content, no matter where
it is hosted; and
it would allow Australian platforms that host user generated
content to operate onshore, rather than encouraging them to base their
businesses in countries that provide more legal certainty, like the US, Canada,
Singapore, and South Korea.
The copyright safe harbour scheme is a simple system that is
intended to encourage rights holders and online service providers to work
together when dealing with copyright infringement. It:
- gives rights holders an efficient, non-litigious way to seek
removal of infringing content;
- limits the liability of online service providers for
infringements undertaken by their clients, as long as they collaborate with
rights holders; and
- ensures consumers who wish to challenge incorrect claims of
copyright infringement have clear rights to do so.
1.25 The Digital Industry Group Incorporated states that they are 'disappointed the Government has specifically excluded the
Australian tech industry from the proposed safe harbour scheme' and that:
Expanding safe harbours to all online service providers is
important as it would not only encourage greater innovative activity by
Australian businesses, but place them on a level playing field with overseas
competitors. In particular, it would reduce Australia's high-risk legal
environment for hosting content as compared with overseas counterparts such as
the US, the EU, Canada, Singapore, Korea and New Zealand, that already have
safe harbour schemes.
If the government moves ahead with a safe harbour scheme that
excludes domestic online service providers, Australian startups and service
providers will be in a significantly disadvantaged and high-risk position
operating without the basic legal safe harbour protections that global startups
in all the regions above rely on to ensure certainty about their collaborative
work with rightsholders to remove allegedly infringing third-party content.
Expanding safe harbours to all online service providers would
also benefit rights holders by creating a simple and consistent system that
provides them with an efficient way to seek the removal of infringing content
online without going to court, and incentivise service providers to collaborate
by granting them certain legal protections.
1.26 99Designs states that:
At the moment we don't have a clear legal framework to deal
with any infringing content that a user may upload to our platform. This
created legal risk for our business that puts us at a big disadvantage to our
competitors overseas. To compete in the global marketplace, and continue to
employ Australians in Australia, we need the protection provided by the safe
harbour scheme, which startups based in United States, the EU, UK, Canada,
Japan, Korea, and Singapore have relied on (in some cases, for decades), to
ensure that we do not face unnecessary legal risk and uncertainty in Australia.
Furthermore, no country in the world has split the scope of its safe harbors to
apply to the non-profit sector but carve out, and exclude, its domestic
technology industry and homegrown entrepreneurs. The safe harbors would also
ensure we have a clear and globally legally recognised process for assisting copyright
owners to address any copyright concerns that may be present on our service.
1.27 Many of the submissions noted that the proposed safe
harbour scheme fails to comply with the Australia-United States Free Trade
Agreement (AUSFTA) obligations to provide liability limitations for service
providers for copyright infringement.
1.28 The Law Council of Australia state that:
...art 17.11.29 of Australia's Free Trade Agreement with the
United States obliges Australia to provide 'limitations in its law regarding
the scope of remedies available against service providers for copyright
infringements that they do not control, initiate, or direct, and that take
place through systems or networks controlled or operated by them or on their
behalf'. Australia's copyright law remains inconsistent with this obligation,
and out of step with legislation in comparable jurisdictions which provide
general safe harbours, including the US, Europe, Canada, and Singapore (among
1.29 Digital Rights Watch point out that:
Australia adopted the safe harbour regime as part of the
Australia–US Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA). When legislation enacting the terms
of AUSFTA was introduced, however, it contained a drafting error that limited
its application only to 'Carriage Service Providers' (telecommunications
providers and ISPs) but not to those entities who really need it—content hosts.
1.30 Digital Industry Group Incorporated states that:
Expanding the safe harbour scheme to all service providers is
required under Australia's international obligations, in particular under the
Australia-US Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA), which requires parties to introduce
limitations on the liability of providers of Internet services for copyright
infringement. Full expansion of the scheme will ensure Australia is no longer
in breach of its legal obligations under the AUSFTA, a breach which has been
publicly confirmed by international copyright experts Professors Jane Ginsburg
and Sam Ricketson. The Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (JSCOT) also
recently recommended "the Australian Government progress the safe harbours
amendments in the proposed Copyright Amendment (Disability and Other Access
1.31 Google also notes that:
...the proposed safe harbour scheme fails to comply with the
Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement's (AUSFTA's) obligation to provide
liability limitations for service providers for copyright infringement. By
including domestic Australian-based "carriage" broadband service
providers but excluding online service providers in the U.S. and elsewhere from
the scope of the safe harbour protection, the proposal further exposes
Australia to concerns that the regime creates a trade barrier to Australia's
digital content market and fails to comply with Article 17.11.29 of AUSFTA.
As a consequence of Australia's more limited safe harbour
scheme, Australia is currently out of step with many of its major trading
partners, including the U.S., Canada, the EU, the UK, Japan, Singapore, and
South Korea. International copyright experts, Professors Jane Ginsburg and Sam
Ricketson, have also expressed the view that Australia's safe harbour framework
is not only narrower than its U.S. counterpart, but also "narrower than
the obligations contained in the AUSFTA."
There is longstanding international legal consensus that the
carriage service provider-only limitation leaves Australia's safe harbour
scheme out of compliance with the requirements of AUSFTA. Similarly, in 2014, a
group of leading Australian law professors wrote that extending safe harbours
to allservice providers "will finally bring Australian law into compliance
with its obligations under art. 17.11.29 of AUSFTA."
Third Party Providers
1.32 Several submissions also expressed concerns that the
defined service providers in the proposed legislation would, in effect, not be
protected due to a lack of protection for providers carrying out activities on
behalf of service providers.
1.33 Universities Australia stated that:
In the digital age, many universities rely on third party,
cloud-based providers to carry out some or all of the activities that fall
within the scope of the safe harbours. Universities Australia is concerned that
the current drafting could potentially be construed as limiting the protection
of the safe harbours to activities that are carried out "by" a
university itself, which could potentially leave universities outside the scope
of the safe harbours in the event that the relevant activities were carried out
by a third-party provider "on behalf of" the university.
...We respectfully urge the Committee to recommend the
inclusion of a provision that makes it abundantly clear that the safe harbour
extends to activities that are carried by a third-party provider "on
behalf" of an entity that is a "service provider" under the
1.34 The Law Council of Australia also noted that:
Many educational institutions, libraries, archives and
organisations that assist people with disabilities work with technology
providers—Australian and overseas—lack in house capacity to build online
platforms themselves, or can more efficiently and effectively innovate in
collaboration with external experts and service providers. Universities, for
example, are working with cloud providers to provide secure storage for
research data that can be accessed by their researchers wherever they happen to
be working. In this context, safe harbours that cover only the activities
carried out by public sector institutions will not enable innovation, or enable
them to enhance their online offerings in a professional, or efficient way.
Hosting contracts with external providers are likely to place the risk of
noncompliance with copyright on the public interest institution. This will
leave the institution without the benefit of any safe harbour, and in no better
position than prior to the enactment of this Bill. It also denies the
opportunity for innovative companies to develop new technologies and services
for use by schools, libraries or archives.
An alternative would be to include in the safe harbour
activities done "by or on behalf of" the institutions intended to be
covered by the safe harbour. Such drafting would allow public interest
organisations to innovate entirely in-house, but also then use services and
products developed in the private sector.
1.35 The Digital Industry Group Incorporated also stated
...many of the nonprofit service providers to which safe
harbours would apply under the proposed Bill rely on the very digital service
platforms that are excluded from the Bill to serve their users and students;
therefore excluding the tech industry from the scope of the safe harbours can
have a negative effect on the public institutions that rely on leading
commercial online services to fulfill their educational and cultural missions.
For those service providers, the exception becomes somewhat ineffective as it
also potentially limits their access to leading commercial online services.
1.36 The Australian Greens recommend implementing the
definition of service providers as proposed in the Government's 2015 Exposure
Draft of the Copyright Amendment (Disability Access and Other Measures) Bill
2016, which defined 'service provider' as a provider of transmission, routing
or connections for digital online communications without modification of their
content between or among points specified by the user of material of the user's
1.37 The Australian Greens recommend that the intent
and language related to activities that are carried by a third-party provider 'on
behalf' of an entity that is a 'service provider' be clarified in consultation
1.38 The Australian Greens recommend that the
Government continues to review copyright legislation to introduce a Fair Use
exception and to remove geocodes that enforce different prices and conditions
of use of content by Australian consumers.
for Western Australia
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