TheÂ Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee is holding hearings on copyright law reform today. Among the worst ideas putÂ before itÂ is a submissionÂ from the Copyright Agency Limited (CAL), which argues things like:
- there shouldn’t be a satire exemption (you can almost hear them saying “there’s nothing funny about copyright infringement, Senator”)
- educational institutions shouldn’t even be able to copy 1% of a copyrighted work
- copyright owners should be able to prevent digitisation of their own works (ie. let’s kill Google Books)
But the worst thing about CAL’s submission is it’s got my name on it. Implicitly, anyway. Paragraph 1.2 states “we represent 9129 primary creators” – one of which is me. The reason I’m a CAL member is that the Copyright Act gives CAL a monopoly to collect copyright usage fees, so that when one of my articles goes into a university course pack, I end up with a few cents.
Yet somehow CAL has parlayed this monopoly into the ability to argue for outrageous protections for copyright holders. If you polled CAL’s membership, I can’t imagine that a majority would think it was a good idea to allowÂ humorless greysuitsÂ to sue satirists for breach of copyright. But that’s effectively what they’re telling the Senate.
There’s a simple solution to this. We should change the legislation so as to separate CAL’s money-collection role from its lobbying role. Then Australia’s authors would be able to still get their copying royalties, without being associated with a body that wants to shut down Google Books.