On 22 December 2015, the Department of Communications and the Arts released a draft exposure Bill setting out proposed amendments to the Copyright Act

The stated purpose of the amendments is to "simplify and modernise" various provisions that relate to the "disability, educational, libraries and archives sectors", though some of the proposed amendments will have effect beyond those sectors

Proposed amendments include:

  • introducing a simpler "fair dealing" provision for the use of copyright material to assist people with a disability (to replace the existing provision in part of section 200AB);
  • substituting streamlined provisions in place of the existing Parts VA and VB (which permit educational institutions to use materials, including text and images and material from radio and TV); and
  • substituting streamlined provisions in place of some of the existing library and archive provisions (sections 51A and 51B, which deal with preservation copying and copying – principally of original materials – for research purposes).

We understand that the principal proposed amendments for the education sectors follow ongoing discussion between these sectors and some of the collecting societies, and that these are not likely to be particularly contentious. In general terms, the provisions for the disability and cultural sectors will also not be contentious, though some tweaking may be required to the drafting. In addition are proposals to:

  • extend the "safe harbours" available for online infringements beyond ISPs to other organisations and people who provide or operate "facilities for online services or network access";
  • limit the duration of copyright for unpublished materials (generally, to 70 years after the end of the year the creator died or – if the creator isn't known – 70 years after the work is made); and
  • simplify the provisions relating to how long copyright lasts in literary, dramatic, artistic and musical works in which a government owns or would have owned copyright (to 50 years from the end of the year the relevant work was made).

The Department is inviting comment on the draft Bill before 12 February 2016. For the draft Bill and further information on the consultation process, see: https://www.communications.gov.au/have-your-say/updating-australias-copyright-laws Contact Ian McDonald, Special Counsel at Simpsons Solicitors if you would like to discuss the proposed amendments and how they might affect you or your organisation.