The Australian Productivity Commission has recommended that our government explore ways to reduce the copyright term from life plus 70 years (the current term in the United States) to somewhere between 15 and 25 years from the date of creation.
This affects Australian authors most immediately, but will also have a knock-on effect to creatives in other jurisdictions. In the first instance, it means that Australians can lawfully pirate your content after the expiration of copyright period in Australia. While you can still prosecute in your jurisdiction, this is practically difficult if the offender is located in Australia and never leaves. It also means Australians will be able to create derivative content from your content after the expiration of the copyright term—and their derivative will then itself be protected for the copyright term—without needing to pay you a cent.
Secondly, the Australian government can’t change the copyright period without negotiating with foreign governments. This is because we have free trade agreements with various governments which set the copyright term at life plus seventy years, not least the free trade agreement with the US. This means that if our government decides to try and change the copyright term, they’re going to start talking to your governments, and that might give your government the idea that it should also change its copyright terms.
The logic behind the recommendation is as follows:
Now the first point is indisputable. That is the public policy behind copyright term.
But the second point, I think, is very, very wrong. While many of us may never make much from our work, I believe the vast majority of us are motivated by at least the vague hope that one day we may make enough to live on, if not ‘make it big’.
A third point is that consumers have already benefited in terms of the availability of creative content as a result of the digital age. Ebook prices in Australia are often 25 – 50% the cost of print versions, and ebooks are often available indefinitely because there is no incentive to cease production. Given that consumers are already enjoying reduced costs and increased availability, what argument is there that creatives should suffer losses to further benefit consumers?
I propose to make a submission on the recommendations to address these and other points however it would be helpful for me if you could complete this survey to provide me with the information I need to back up my arguments.
Please also feel free to add your other thoughts in the comments.