Government Accused Of Ignoring Industry Calls To Leave Copyright Laws Alone

3 November 2016 | 2:56 pm | Neil Griffiths

'The fact that key bodies have sought the opportunity to discuss these potential changes with government without response is alarming.'

Following news this week that a number of musicians have rallied together to fight a proposed change to copyright laws that could affect their ability to be paid fairly for their content, members of the Australian music industry have come out swinging against the government and accused it off ignoring requests to discuss the matter. 

Over 200 artists and managers, including John Farnham, Cold Chisel, INXS, Delta Goodrem and Birds Of Tokyo have signed an open letter to the government calling on it to not vote on changes to the safe harbour provisions. 

The current safe harbour provision protects internet service providers from being liable if a customer uploads a musician's song to their services, however a draft put forward by government shows that services like Facebook and YouTube could also be protected if customers upload music to its services illegally. 

The move is expected to be voted on in parliament next week

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Speaking to The Music, general manager of Native Tongue Music PublishingJaime Gough, says he cannot understand why the government would not engage with the music industry about the decision.

"The fact that a number of key bodies have sought the opportunity to discuss these potential changes with government without response is particularly alarming considering they could be voted on next week," Gough says.

"We are talking about a significant reduction in the value of copyright for all creators so this is a major issue."

Music Rights Australia's Vanessa Hutley adds that the proposed bill "will undermine an artist’s and an creator’s ability to choose where when and how their music can be enjoyed by people".

"A safe harbour that actually represents the current digital environment, and which is developed through consultation, will be something that actually benefits all," Hutley tells The Music.

"Our concern is that no one has actually consulted with the creative groups who will be impacted by it and therefore what they’re currently putting forward should not go ahead.

"They should drop the schedule from the bill and they should engage in a consultation to create a safe harbour that’s fit for purpose and represents the current digital environment."

Hutley continues that just as puzzling is the government's lack of communication with the music industry, is its motives behind the proposed move.

"We don’t know why the government is making the changes they’re making. We don’t know why they’ve chosen to make those changes now," Hutley says.

"Particularly because, in the US and the EU, these very issues are being discussed in consultation to make it fit for purpose.

"It is strange that Australia is choosing to not do and not fit into what is happening in the digital environment all around the world. We’re sort of taking a step back backwards, which seems like a very odd thing to do when we’re trying to be at the cutting edge of the digital environment."

If the changes are passed through government, Hutley predicts that it will have grave consequences for the industry now and moving forward.

"What we can say is the changes that are contemplated, we have seen in the US that this undermines the commercial negotiated position for the creative industries and that is a very bad thing for the current creative industries and the future of those creative industries."