Principle 3: Promoting fair access to and wide dissemination of content

2.24 The Terms of Reference refer to the ‘general interest of Australians to access, use and interact with content in the advancement of education, research and culture’. There are important economic and social benefits in promoting access to and wide dissemination of information. Stakeholders articulated different aspects of the public interest including: advancing education and research,[37] developing and supporting culture, public participation in decision making[38] and promoting a transparent and accountable democracy.[39]

According to review after report after second reading speech, Australian copyright law exists to serve the public interest in both the creation and the dissemination of new works of knowledge and culture.[40]

2.25 A fundamental value in Australia is freedom of expression and this is inherent in any principle concerning dissemination of information.[41] Furthermore it is essential to recognise that ‘the digital economy is not measured purely by financial indicators, but also that cultural benefits play a significant part in the digital economy’.[42] A wide variety of content and platforms for delivering content ‘services our pluralistic society and allows for the ability for niche groups to express themselves through media and consumer media’.[43]

2.26 A number of stakeholders pointed out that wide dissemination and availability of content is vitally important to creation[44] of new copyright material:

To fulfil its public policy role, copyright needs to be consistent with, and promote, relevant individual rights, in particular the right to freedom of expression, as well as the public interest in ensuring the importance of education and research, and in safeguarding the functioning of public institutions which promote preservation of and public access to knowledge and culture, such as libraries, museums, galleries and archives … Creation depends on access to existing cultural material, education, and freedom to express ourselves creatively.[45]

2.27 Some stakeholders refer to a concept of ‘users rights’, the view being that these are in fact ‘a central aspect of copyright’.[46] In economic terms, ‘the exclusive rights that copyright law grants to encourage creativity can impose costs in terms of reduced access and cumulative creativity. The exceptions and limitations to copyright can be understood as attempts to contain these costs and maintain an overall balance in copyright policy’.[47]

2.28 In line with the principle of fair access to material, one submission urged as a leading principle that copyright law should ‘focus on the end-userand their ability to access copyright material and not be used to unreasonably restrict the ability of end-users to view or use material that they otherwise have a legitimate right to view or use’.[48] However, allowing access on terms decided by the content owner is also considered fundamental by many stakeholders, even in circumstances ‘which may not be wide’ and to some may not appear ‘fair’ or ‘free’.[49]

2.29 Inherent in the notion of ‘fair access’ is providing appropriate remuneration to copyright owners[50] and always, attribution and other ‘key social norms’ need to be observed.[51] The National Archives of Australia submitted that:

in addressing fairness, it is relevant to consider that much copyright material held in archives, and especially in government archives, could be disseminated widely to the great benefit of the community and with no real harm to the commercial interests of the copyright owners.[52]

2.30 A variety of views is evident in determining the basis of appropriate remuneration. Understandably, rights owners organisations, on behalf of their constituents, argued for remuneration attaching to whatever is determined to be within the copyright owner’s exclusive rights. This raises questions about who should bear the cost of equitable remuneration: ‘should the cost be borne by the user, or, in effect, the content creator’.[53] A key issue in this Inquiry is whether free use exceptions should apply ‘if there is a licensing solution’ applicable to the user. On one view, ‘in principle, no exception should allow a use that a user can make under a licensing solution available to them’.[54]

2.31 This approach assumes that the content creator is inevitably de-incentivised by not being paid, and that there is no middle ground between ‘someone paying for it’, either the creator or the user. This is a different question from ‘what should be paid for, and what should not’ which is ‘at the heart of all this’.[55]

2.32 In this Discussion Paper, the ALRC considers the interests of Australians in gaining access to content in the digital environment and makes recommendations designed to achieve wide distribution, taking into account social and economic benefits for all stakeholders.

[37] ADA and ALCC, Submission 213; Universities Australia, Submission 246.

[38] Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW), Submission 111.

[39] National Archives of Australia, Submission 155; State Records NSW, Submission 160.

[40] R Burrell and others, Submission 278.

[41] Ibid; News Limited, Submission 224; Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Submission 210; Civil Liberties Australia, Submission 139.

[42] Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Submission 210; see also Members of the Intellectual Property Media and Communications Law Research Network at the Faculty of Law UTS, Submission 153; Arts Tasmania, Submission 150; National Gallery of Victoria, Submission 142; K Bowrey, Submission 94.

[43] AIMIA Digital Policy Group, Submission 261.

[44] See, eg, ADA and ALCC, Submission 213: ‘Our understanding of “creativity” does not merely encompass new copyright works, but new ways of accessing and engaging with content’. See also Board on Science, Technology and Economic Policy, Copyright in the Digital Era: Building Evidence for Policy (2013).

[45] R Burrell and others, Submission 278; see also N Suzor, Submission 172.

[46] Universities Australia, Submission 246 citing R Burrell and A Coleman, Copyright Exceptions: The Digital Impact (2005), 279.

[47] Board on Science, Technology and Economic Policy, Copyright in the Digital Era: Building Evidence for Policy (2013), 42.

[48] Optus, Submission 183. See also Civil Liberties Australia, Submission 139.

[49] News Limited, Submission 224.

[50] Copyright Agency/Viscopy, Submission 249; iGEA, Submission 192; ACIG, Submission 190; News Limited, Submission 224; Music Council of Australia, Submission 269.

[51] News Limited, Submission 224.

[52] National Archives of Australia, Submission 155.

[53] Copyright Agency/Viscopy, Submission 249 (with respect to the statutory licensing scheme for various cultural institutions).

[54] Ibid.

[55] P Banki, ‘Copyright and the Digital Economy: So Many Issues; So Little Time’ (2012) 30 Copyright Reporter 66, 67.