Productivity Commission: Australia’s intellectual property system has lost sight of users

The Australian Productivity Commission slams our copyright and patent laws

Australian Governments have been obsessed with introducing new draconian laws to protect intellectual property rights, especially copyright. However, it seems our Government’s have been captured by rights holders and have completely lost sight of the public interest and economic development that is needed to support the legitimacy of these laws.

Slamming Australia’s laws, the Productivity Commission has called that “action must be taken to rebalance Australia’s intellectual property (IP) arrangements”.

“A good IP system balances the interests of rights holders and users, but Australia’s system has swung too far in favour of vocal rights holders and influential IP exporting nations“.

So, not only have our politicians been captured by the interests of rights holders, they’ve been captured by foreign interests at the expense of Australians.

“No matter how you measure it, Australia overwhelmingly imports more IP than it exports — and this gap is widening. Most of the profits from excessive IP rights flow offshore, while Australian consumers and taxpayers are left to pick up the tab,” said Commissioner Karen Chester.

That’s a damning assessment of our laws and the Attorney-General who has been focussed not on reforming IP laws, but being a lickspittle to foreign interests to introduce draconian enforcement laws.

“Many of Australia’s IP arrangements are locked-in by trade agreements, frustrating much needed change. Despite these constraints, the Commission has identified a workable bundle of reforms.”

“Copyright is important for rewarding creative endeavour. But in Australia, it is more a case of ‘copy(not)right’. Copyright is pervasive, affecting everyone from hip hop artists sampling music, school children watching a documentary in class, libraries and museums preserving Australia’s history, to innovative researchers accessing databases for data mining.”

“Copyright protection lasts too long — a book written today by an author who lives for another 50 years will be protected until 2136” , says the Commission.

Wow, why does an artist need a artificially constructed legal right extending 70 years after his or her death?

“Surveys reveal much online copyright infringement is out of sheer frustration from poor access. The best antidote to copyright infringement is accessible and competitively priced online content, not draconian penalties and big brother enforcement.”

Again, that’s a damning indictment of the Attorney-General’s policy priorities over the last few years.  Attorney-General George Brandis has been obsessed with new laws to punish users rather than addressing the policy problems caused by an out of whack IP system.

“Rights holders and their intermediaries need to do more to deliver timely and accessible content. The Government should also make clear that Australians should be able to circumvent geoblocking technology,” said Commissioner Karen Chester.

While former communications Minister and current Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has stated our copyright laws do not prohibit VPNs to circumvent geoblocks, the Commission has found our laws should expressly make this clear.

The benefits of IP reform would be far reaching.

“True innovation and creativity will be rewarded, while consumers will have better access to new and cheaper goods and services. Australian firms won’t have to engage in costly workarounds that hinder follow-on innovation,” Commissioner Jonathan Coppel said.

The Commission is inviting submissions on the draft report by 3 June 2016 and will hold public hearings in June.

You can make a submission here: