Senate debates

Thursday, 10 May 2018


Copyright Amendment (Service Providers) Bill 2017; Second Reading

1:21 pm

Photo of Deborah O'NeillDeborah O'Neill (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Innovation) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak on the Copyright Amendment Service Providers Bill 2017. This bill would extend the operation of the safe harbour scheme set out in the Copyright Act 1968 to a broader range of service providers. Labor have long advocated for this change, and we've worked with the government to bring this bill forward.

The existing safe harbour scheme established by the Copyright Act protects carriage service providers—in particular, internet service providers such as Telstra and Optus—from the civil liability they would otherwise be exposed to for hosting or communicating material that infringes copyright. To be able to rely on this legal safe harbour created by the Copyright Act, the carriage service provider needs to demonstrate that they operate a scheme for removing copyright-infringing material if they are notified of such material by a rights holder.

This bill would extend that safe harbour scheme beyond carriage service providers to include education institutions through their administering bodies, including universities, schools, technical colleges, training bodies and preschools. It would also include libraries that either make their collection available to the public or are parliamentary libraries through their administering bodies. It would include archives through their administering bodies, including the National Archives of Australia and specified state archives, galleries and museums; key cultural institutions through their administering bodies, including specific archives and libraries that are not open to the public; and organisations assisting persons with a disability.

The extension of the safe harbour scheme pursuant to this bill is generally supported by rights holders and their peak groups because it provides a social good without undermining the commercial interests of content creators or their capacity to negotiate effectively with commercial enterprises for the distribution of their copyright materials. Labor supports this bill because it's founded on the principle that passive carriers with no control over the material carried on internet services should not be liable for copyright infringement, provided they take steps to remove infringing content when they are notified of its use.

Labor have consulted widely on this bill, and we support it because it will provide greater legal protections for our schools, universities, libraries and cultural institutions to operate efficiently in this digital age. At the same time, this bill balances the interests of right holders with those of important education and cultural institutions that will benefit from the extended protections provided under the expanded safe harbour scheme. This is in part because the entities protected by the expanded safe harbour scheme established by this bill do not benefit financially from use of content on their networks, and so these reforms, importantly, do not distort the commercial market.

In contrast, the more radical changes to our copyright laws supported by the Greens party in their dissenting report on this bill have the capacity to undermine the capacity of Australian artists, musicians, authors and other rights holders to negotiate viable commercial arrangements for the distributions of their work. The changes wanted by the Greens blithely ignore the serious concerns expressed by Australia's artists and creative industries, in favour of the arguments put forward by some of the world's most profitable companies, in particular US tech giants. The US scheme of massively expanded safe harbour that the Greens have argued we should adopt here in Australia has been the subject of ongoing criticism in the United States and, in fact, is currently being reviewed by US lawmakers.

Given the divergence of stakeholder views, the complexity of the issues being considered and the current review of the safe harbour scheme in the United States, Labor does not believe that we should be charging ahead with reforms that have the potential to cause great damage to Australian artists, to our creative industries and to our culture. Labor supports the bill before us today as a balanced and reasonable approach to copyright reform, and we'll continue our consultations with stakeholders on whether further changes to the legal safe harbour scheme under the Copyright Act may be desirable.

1:25 pm

Photo of Jordon Steele-JohnJordon Steele-John (WA, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

The Australian Greens welcome the progress that the Copyright Amendment (Service Providers) Bill 2017 makes in bringing Australian copyright law up to date and in line with international best practice. In order to expedite the passage of this bill we have supported it as non-controversial, although we would like to see further consideration and review of Australian copyright law in the near future.

The Australian Greens are strongly supportive of both the creative and the innovative industries in Australia. These fields are increasingly overlapping as digital distribution becomes more and more prevalent, which creates both opportunities and risks for content creators and service providers. Currently, Australian universities, libraries, schools, digital innovators, cultural institutions and tech companies provide online services without the benefit of the same safe harbour as their equivalents overseas. This bill goes to addressing a portion of this issue, and we welcome this progress.

A safe harbour provides protections for service providers that make information and culture available online where they do not control, initiate or direct users' activities online. This bill defines 'service provider' to be a carriage service provider; an organisation assisting persons with a disability; or a body administering a library, archive, cultural institution or educational institution. However, the safe harbour protection is not extended to digital innovators or content service providers. There was substantial support for this further extension of safe harbours expressed in submissions to the Environment and Communications Legislation Committee inquiry into this bill. They came from digital innovators, tech companies, government bodies, libraries and independent advocates. There was also concern expressed that the defined service providers in the proposed legislation would in effect not be protected due to a lack of protection for providers carrying out activities on behalf of service providers, such as third-party providers contracted by universities. Various submissions also noted that the proposed safe harbour scheme fails to comply with the Australia-United States free trade obligations to provide liability limitations for service providers for copyright infringement.

These issues notwithstanding, the Australian Greens welcome the progress made in this bill, including the issues raised in this speech, along with the consideration of fair use and geoblocking. We will continue to work to ensure that the interests of both the creative and the innovative sectors and industries are protected, and we do not believe that these two things are mutually exclusive. Our future will be made brighter by Australian creators and innovators working together to deliver Australian content to the world. These two industries are fundamental to future work and play in our country, and the more support and protection we provide the more we are investing in jobs, particularly for young Australians. I thank the chamber for its time.