Sunday 20th of September 2020

Australia's new copyright laws risk making criminals out of all of us

A media release from the Internet Industry Association:

New Copyright Laws Risk Criminalising Everyday Australians

The Internet Industry Association today warned that changes to Australia’s copyright laws being rushed through Parliament risked making criminals out of everyday Australians.

The IIA which represents a broad range of internet businesses in Australia, in conjunction with the QUT Law Faculty Intellectual Property Research Program, has identified a number of scenarios which could trip up Australians in their everyday use of copyrighted materials.

Said IIA chief executive, Peter Coroneos: “We can’t be sure if this is the government's intent, or whether there has been a terrible oversight in the drafting of this Bill. Either way, the consequences for the average Australian family could be devastating.”

“As an example,” said Mr Coroneos, “a family who holds a birthday picnic in a place of public entertainment (for example, the grounds of a zoo) and sings ‘Happy Birthday’ in a manner that can be heard by others, risks an infringement notice carrying a fine of up to $1320. If they make a video recording of the event, they risk a further fine for the possession of a device for the purpose of making an infringing copy of a song. And if they go home and upload the clip to the internet where it can be accessed by others, they risk a further fine of up to $1320 for illegal distribution. All in all, possible fines of up to $3960 for this series of acts – and the new offences do not require knowledge or improper intent. Just the doing of the acts is enough to ground a legal liability under the new ‘strict liability’ offences.”

The IIA will next week release a series of ‘risk matrices’ showing how Australians could inadvertently risk heavy fines and even jail under the new copyright regime.

On Monday, the IIA will release a risk matrix showing how teenagers from the age of 14 years will risk crippling fines and damage to their employment prospects by engaging in activities which many would today regard as commonplace.

On Tuesday, the IIA will release a risk matrix which will exemplify how an average Australian family could sustain massive fines as a consequence of the operation of these laws.

On Wednesday, the IIA will show how a small business could inadvertently expose itself to substantial penalties by engaging in activities that to date have not attracted criminal penalties.

On Thursday, the IIA will demonstrate the risks to ISPs and the emerging digital economy in Australia and how the new laws will disadvantage us when compared to other ‘technology friendly’ nations.

“We have gone over and over our legal analysis, with the assistance of legal academics and regulatory experts. Not only can we see no justification for the severity of the penalties, but the complexity of the new laws will make it extremely difficult for everyday Australians to avoid a potential liability – and when the level of penalties which attach to the new offences is understood, the scenarios are pretty terrifying,” Mr Coroneos said.

Professor Brian Fitzgerald, head of the School of Law at QUT added his concern: “We assume the new broad ranging laws will be enforced. If the Government intends that they are not, then we’d be wanting to know why the provisions have not been more carefully drafted to target commercial scale piracy rather than Australian families.”

“The fact that the Government is intent on pushing these amendments through so fast is very disturbing. The Bill passed the House of Representatives last week and is due to become law in mid December, with commencement on 1 January 2007,” Professor Fitzgerald said.

Mr Coroneos underlined the IIA’s position: “We fully understand the need to protect copyright - our submission to the Senate Committee begins with that proposition. The internet needs content and content creators need incentives to create. But these amendments are overkill and risk delivering a host of unintended consequences at a time when no other country in the world has criminal sanctions for non commercial scale infringements.”

“The US Free Trade Agreement does not require Australia to go down this path, and neither US nor European law contain such far reaching measures. We at a total loss to understand how this policy has developed, who is behind it and why there is such haste in enacting it into law – with little if any public debate.”


For further comment, please contact:

Peter Coroneos
Chief Executive
Internet Industry Association (IIA)

Phone: +61 2 6232 6900
Fax: +61 2 6232 6513

Copyright laws have been largely rectified

From SMH it appears that these laws have been largely rectified:

"The amended reforms make it clear consumers can transfer the music they own onto devices such as iPods and enable the next wave of technology by allowing people to record a TV or radio program on mobile devices to watch it at a more convenient time."

The amendments also removed on-the-spot fines for some copyright offences, to ensure they didn't "unintentionally capture harmless activities of ordinary Australians".

However, the copyright reforms still retain harsh penalties against those distributing copyright-infringing material for commercial gain.