The Inquiry in context

The broader context, within which the ALRC conducted this Inquiry, included the following.

The concept of the digital economy: The digital economy is the global network of economic and social activities that are enabled by information and communications technologies, such as the internet, computers, the cloud, search engines and smart devices. Digital technologies provide efficiency and savings for individuals, businesses and governments to increase wealth and drive further economic growth. Reform of copyright exceptions may promote the more effective functioning of the digital environment.

Innovation and productivity: Copyright is an essential aspect of innovation in the digital environment. This includes new ways of developing creative material and new ways of legally accessing, distributing, storing and consuming copyright material. At present, copyright law gets in the way of much innovative activity which could enhance Australia’s economy and consumer welfare. Reform of copyright law could promote greater opportunities for innovation and economic development.

Trends in consumer use of copyright material: Many people innocently infringe copyright in going about their everyday activities. Reforms are recommended to legalise common consumer practices which do not harm copyright owners. The same discussions are taking place around the world as respect for copyright law is diminishing.

The complexity of copyright law: Copyright legislation is extremely complex and detailed, and also technology-specific. Reducing legislative complexity and introducing flexibility creates a better environment for business, consumers, education and government.

Cultural policy and copyright reform: Many stakeholders in this Inquiry are at the forefront of cultural life in Australia. It is clear that copyright law directly affects a broad range of cultural activity, often impeding access to material for no good policy reason. The ALRC recommends reform that is beneficial for Australians in terms of accessing and interacting with culture.

Statutory licensing in the digital economy: The Copyright Act provides for guaranteed access to copyright material for the education, government and disability sectors. The ALRC has investigated whether the statutory licensing provisions of the Copyright Act are achieving their aims and has recommended reforms to improve the system.

Competition issues and copyright reform: Copyright law and competition law are largely complementary in that both seek to promote innovation, higher living standards, and expand choices and benefits to society. The ALRC’s reform recommendations seek to foster efficient and competitive markets for copyright material.

Evidence and law reform in the digital economy: Around the world, the need to quantify the contribution of copyright exceptions to non-core copyright industries, including interdependent and support industries, is under discussion. Stakeholders referred to the need for proper evidence before law reform is introduced. However, the available economic evidence is incomplete and contested. The ALRC considers that, given it is unlikely that reliable empirical evidence will become available in the near future, law reform should proceed, based on a hypothesis-driven approach.

Current regulatory models: The ALRC reviewed whether the current legal and institutional structures in copyright law offer an effective, efficient and functional model for dealing with copyright issues in the digital environment, and what alternatives might apply. Reform recommendations are designed to allow for a more principles-based model to reduce existing regulatory burdens.