Over the last decade, technology has thrown up a constant challenge to our copyright laws--how do we protect the interests of our creators when copying has never been easier?
In the case of home copying, key players in the audio visual industry believe the answer lies in a proposal that has been successfully implemented in more than forty other countries, including the United States and many European nations.
This proposal, which is currently being considered by the Australian Government, is to legalize home copying and to implement a system of compensation for copyright owners through a levy to be charged on blank recordable media.
Most households have access to increasingly sophisticated copying technology. Video and audio tapes are fast becoming antiquated, with recordable CDs and DVDs giving consumers the ability to make perfect copies of film, television and music with ease.
Yet, under our current Australian Copyright Act, it is actually illegal to use this technology to copy for home use, unless you obtain permission from all the relevant copyright owners.
The practical difficulties associated with obtaining permission, coupled with the ease of home copying technology, means that people are breaking the law on a regular basis.
We not only have legislation that is clearly out of step with public behaviour, it also results in an incalculable loss to the creators and producers of audio-visual material.
In arguing for the legalization of home copying and the imposition of a levy, copyright owners are taking a pragmatic approach.
They do not want to stop the use of copying technology (in fact, attempting to do so would be near impossible), but they do want to protect their right to earn a living from their work.
So, how would such a scheme work in practice?
The proposal is for a levy to be paid on any removable and portable item of electronic storage that can be used for home copying. This levy will be built into the wholesale and retail price of the recordable media, with the money to be collected by a non-profit copyright collecting society declared by the government to administer these provisions.
The society's role would be to monitor home copying by use of sample surveys and other monitoring techniques, with any survey system striking a balance between being both cost efficient and fair.
Survey results would then be used to distribute the money to copyright owners after the deduction of the society's administrative overheads only. …