Copocrisy

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COPYRIGHT IS BROKEN

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How is Copyright Broken in Australia?

At this very moment, many people in Australia are breaching copyright.  They are doing creative things, commonplace things, public interest things, things that are improving our community and culture, and they are breaching copyright, often without even being aware of it.

What is Copyright?

Copyright is the intellectual property right that protects the expression of an idea or information, a ‘work’.  It gives the creator of the works the right to control uses of the work, uses like reproduction, adaption and showing it in public.  It’s automatic, as soon as the work is recorded in some way, written down, recorded, twittered, then copyright protects that work.  It doesn’t have to be artistic, or commercial or substantial, a two sentence note asking your partner to buy milk is automatically protected by copyright.  The creator can transfer some or all of these rights to another person, so the creator is not always the ‘rightsholder’.

In order to use a copyright work, or part of a copyright work, then you need the permission of the rightsholder, often given in return for payment.  This can be expensive, difficult or even impossible.  Sometimes it’s just not possible to track down the rightsholder for a work.

When can you use copyright material without permission?

There are some exceptions that allow people to use copyright works without first getting permission in specific circumstances.  These include the ‘fair dealing’ exceptions, exceptions for libraries and schools, some specific time and format shifting exceptions for personal use and some highly technical exceptions to do with computer programs and backups.

The trouble is that these exceptions are narrow, specific and technologically outdated.  For example, you are fine to copy a movie you own to your tablet – as long as you have the movie on VHS.  If you own the same movie on DVD, then copying that to your tablet for personal use will breach copyright.

And if you don’t fall within one of the exceptions then it doesn’t matter how useful, innovative, interesting, harmless or creative the use is, it doesn’t matter if it is for a charity, or to cheer up your Grandmother or just because it’s side-splittingly funny, if you don’t fall within an exception then using that work will be a breach of copyright.

How does it affect creativity?

Culture doesn’t happen to people, culture is made and shared and experienced by people.  Samples, loops, clips, memes, pictures, quotes, tweets, these are the building blocks of culture, and creators need to use them in creating new works to feed back into the system.  When you can be sued for mash-ups, collages, or including a line of a childhood song in a new work, it discourages experimentation and sharing.  It criminalises creation.  

What is happening now with Law Reform and what would we like to see?

Right now the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) is considering Australia’s copyright exceptions.  In their discussion paper they suggested scrapping most of the specific exceptions scattered through the Copyright Act, and replacing them with one simple, flexible, adaptable exception for ‘fair use’.

Fair use means can use copyright material as long as the use is fair.  Any purpose could potentially be fair, but there’s a list of suggested purposes that are more likely to be fair, uses such as reporting the news, parody and satire or education.  To work out if a use is fair, you weigh up the various factors.  The main factors are what you’re doing with the material, what sort of material it is, how much you’re using and the impact on the market.  Importantly, in taking into consideration the effect of the use on the market, fair use protects creators from exploitation, without curtailing culture.

JOIN THE CREATIONISTAS

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In the description answer these simple questions. Why did you make it? Why do you think it’s great? Why shouldn’t your creativity be outlawed?

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