Law Reform Commission Discussion Paper urges adoption of fair use in Australia

The Australian law Reform Commission has just released its much anticipated Discussion Paper on Copyright and the Digital Economy. Available in both pdf and e-book at

The Discuss Paper was published on June 5, 2013 and released June 6, 2013. The paper is not definitive, it launches the second stage in the commission’s public consultation processes. The closing date for submissions is Wednesday July 31, 2013.

The Discuss Paper is 388 pages long and I must confess I have not finished reading yet. But I have scanned enough to list some highlights. The Discussion Paper recommends:

  • Repeal Australia’s statutory licensing regime for education and government
  • Replacing the specific exceptions in the Copyright Act with an open-ended ‘fair use’ exception
  • In the alternative, if a fair use test is not enacted, the ARLC recommends a new fair dealing for education provision. This would enable educational institutions to copy for students within limits determined by a test of fairness.

Obviously, even contemplating such significant changes to Australian copyright law will provoke a backlash from the copyright owner interest groups. Hopefully these groups will do more than make captious ‘lobbyist’ arguments. I heard some ludicrous suggestions when I was in Australia earlier in the year, such as the fair use doctrine would be unconstitutional because Australia has no First Amendment.

But there is no denying Australia copyright law is horribly broken and major changes are required. Internet search engines are technically illegal in Australia (so are Tivo and similar DVRs thanks to a recent decision of the Full Federal Court) and Australian schools routinely pay for trivial uses of copyrighted material that are fair and free in the rest of the world.