Copyright Laws No Longer Relevant in a Digital Age

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Assignment 2 – Research Essay

Many say the current copyright laws in Australia are not adequate for a digital age. Do you agree with this point of view, and explain the academic research which leads you to this conclusion. Discuss two examples of copyright law which you believe are no longer relevant in a digital age and provide evidence for the changes you would propose, by analysing current media reports and supporting research?

The way a person writes, learns, gathers information, purchases items, listens to music, watches television and films etc., has gradually changed over time. These simple tasks are now conducted and accessed digitally through the mediums of electronic technology such as computers and the Internet. This digital change has occurred globally as a result of the continuing effects of globalisation and modernisation, ultimately leading the world to enter a digital age. The unparalleled simple and quick access, electronic mediums offer in a progressing digital age has conjured up numerous advantages and benefits for users. However it has also created a number of issues, in particular with copyright and intellectual property law, which ‘[cover] patents, trade marks, designs, copyright [and] protect the rights of creators and inventors [who produce the works]’ (Fernandez-Molina, 2004). The digital age continues to present challenges towards current copyright laws, sparking debate on whether they are suitable to deal with the growing need, want and reliance on the access and use of digital resources. This essay will argue that the current copyright laws, with specific focus on Australia, are not adequate for a digital age. The two best examples of Australian copyright law which are no longer relevant and need to be amended in a digital age are the reproducing of photographs and copying of films in a different format for private use and secondary liability for copyright infringement with regards to peer-to-peer file sharing.

In 2006 the Copyright Act 1968 was amended to ‘strengthen [copyright] owners’ rights and provide more certainty for users in the digital environment’ (Attorney-General’s Department, 2006), with harsher punishments taking place in terms of fines and being charged with criminal offences. These stronger penalties proposed by the new amendment were also implemented to ultimately clamp down on the high rate in copyright piracy. The amended act also introduced new exceptions, which are used to ‘[recognise] that in some circumstances the usual rights of copyright owners should not apply…for various reasons; such as to permit incidental uses that do not cause significant harm to copyright owners or because a particular limitation of copyright serves the broader public interest’ (Attorney-General’s Department, 2008). These new exceptions were sections 47J and 110AA, and allowed a person to copy photographs and/or film onto a different format, such as a blank DVD or other electronic device, for their own personal use. They were introduced to ‘recognise reasonable consumer use of copyright material that does not cause substantial harm to copyright owners’ (Attorney-General’s Department, 2008). However in allowing such exceptions to exist it gives people the chance to reproduce and manipulate their own copies of a photograph and/or film for free, which is being originally sold and licensed by copyright holders, creating the opportunity for piracy. Therefore it is obvious that this law of the copyright act is in need of change in order to stay updated in a digital age.

In terms of section 47J, reproducing photographs in a different format, it is not currently a breach of copyright law to reproduce a photograph either into an electronic or hardcopy if you are the owner and using it for private use, despite there being a number of conditions that are questionable and inadequate. For instance one condition permitted by section 47J is that a person, if the owner, is allowed to print a...
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