Copyright Amendment

Australia possesses a valuable creative sector. In my electorate of Forrest, there are a number of creative industries and organisations. One of those is the Vue Group. I was just at the ASTRA event talking to those who might be interested in what the Vue Group are doing. The Vue Group is a creative studio based in Bunbury in my electorate of Forrest in the south-west of Western Australia.

Recently it was a finalist in the 2014 WA Industry and Export Awards in the categories of small business export, creative industries export and regional exporter. The development of this high-tech industry in Bunbury will, over time, employ more than 200 people locally for their biggest projects. It is set to become WA’s biggest film company looking to access the demand for animation and CGI films in China. This is exactly the sort of business which could be impacted by the issues we are discussing in this bill, particularly online copyright infringement. The creative sector is certainly in the firing line of this one. As with the Vue Group, we know that in Australia we certainly have a very serious problem, one of the worst in the developed world. Looking at the wonderful work the Vue Group do, in our small part of the world they already have contracts worth $160 million to coproduce several animated features with the Chinese staff at Shanghai Hippo Animation and there are plans to expand this, assuming a range of other opportunities.

Another creative industry in my part of the world is a group called Sonic Lolly, founded in 2010. It is a music and sound creation, production, publishing and strategy type of company. It operates out of world-class recording facilities in, of all places, Margaret River in Western Australia. They have an international target market, as well as the local, regional and national industries. As we know, there is a great demand for quality recording, for production, from music business strategy and for artist development, all of the things that are happening in a similar way through Sonic Lolly and other businesses.

The South West Development Commission looked at the creative industries in the south-west and a report was done by SGS Economics and Planning, looking at the 2011 census. There were 1,095 employees working in the creative economy in the south-west at that time and the turnover was around $306 million with a gross regional product of $148 million and exports of $70 million. That is just in my part of the world and it gives you some idea of the creative industries in Australia that are most affected by copyright infringement.

Additional messages in the report tell us that this is going to be an emerging industry. The south-west region hosts more than one tenth of the state-wide specialists employed in film, in television and in radio and seven per cent of the state-wide employment in publishing. This area is certainly impacted by the issue of copyright infringement.

We have so many high-performing creative industries—film, television, radio, publishing, architecture, design, visual arts, music and performing arts. Growth is at 3.6 per cent and each creative sector worker in the south-west basically adds more value—$136,000 a year—than his or her counterpart in other locations, including Perth, and even in other world renowned international creative locations. They are doing a great job.

This particular sector will be a focus of the regional economy in the future. That is why this type of legislation is particularly important. Yes, it may not be all that needs doing in this place over time but this bill introduces a key reform that will reduce online copyright infringement because of the specific concerns raised by copyright owners. I am not surprised when you look at the reasons and the figures behind that. Copyright protection provides an essential mechanism for ensuring the viability and the success of creative industries, those I spoke about at the beginning of my speech, just a snapshot of what is currently happening and will happen in the future not just in my part of Australia but right around Australia. I am particularly proud of what those businesses do and the emerging sector that is the creative sector.

We need to keep incentivising and rewarding such creators like the people in south-west Western Australia. Where online copyright infringement happens on a large scale, copyright owners need an efficient mechanism to disrupt the business models of online locations operated outside Australia which distribute infringing copyright material to Australian consumers. There are significant difficulties in taking direct enforcement action against and it is almost viral—through digital means and without any authorisation. When you consider that Australia’s copyright industries employ 900,000 people, at an economic value of more than $90 billion and $7 billion in exports around this country—and, of course, digitisation means that they are particularly susceptible to online copyright infringement—you realise that this really impacts directly on the Australian economy. That is why we have taken this so seriously.

But it can hurt consumers as well. Consumers accessing material unlawfully are certainly not covered by consumer protection laws and may be exposing themselves to the risk of fraud and other forms of cybercrime— without a question. As you know, Mr Deputy Speaker, I do a lot of work in this space. I do presentations in the community for school groups, parents, businesses and broader community groups. I see the harm that they come to in this space all of the time. The absolute focus of what I do is on children and the education of children around what they do online. Both the Attorney-General and the Minister for Communications noted that children in this area of online piracy and online copyright may be exposed to material that is not age appropriate. I can certainly say that that is exactly what is happening, whether in my community or in others around Australia. Children are, through this medium, being exposed to material that is certainly not appropriate for their age, facilitated byonline infringement.

We cannot expect that any single measure is likely to eliminate online copyright infringement, but we have to take one step at a time, and this legislation is an important step. As I said, there is no easy solution and a range of measures are required to reduce piracy. We want for people to be able to continue to enjoy content in the digital environment, but rights holders need to know that their content can be accessed easily and at a reasonable price and that internet service providers will take reasonable steps to ensure that their systems are not used to infringe copyright. We need consumers who are prepared to do the right thing and access that content lawfully so that our creative industries can get the benefit of what they produce—of their imagination, of their investment, of their creativity and, often, their heart and soul, which they put into the work that they do. We need a legal framework that facilitates that industry cooperation so that we have flexible but effective measures to help combat online piracy.

Overseas, we have seen other countries try to address this. This is not a simple issue. The US has a Center for Copyright Information. It is a industry body with a voluntary industry agreement called the Copyright Alert System. The UK has a similar approach through Creative Content UK and New Zealand has a statutory graduated response scheme. It just shows that it is such a complex issue.

There are 3.4 billion people plus in the world using the internet. At least 1.3 billion people use Facebook. There are tens of thousands of websites, many with absolutely no encryption and no protection of any sort. That is the environment people are in. The 3.4 billion people using the internet often have no idea what they are exposing themselves or their systems to when they engage in this space.

As to some of the reasons that we really do need to be concerned about online copyright infringement, we have consumers accessing material unlawfully, as I said. They are not covered by consumer protection laws. I am sure this is something that has not really occurred to them at all. I look at the issue of online safety and the amount of time that people are spending online, and they have an increased exposure to this problem, certainly when it comes to online piracy. If you talk to a child about the time they spend online, frequently they do so with absolutely no barriers to what they can access or where. It might be from 20 minutes to a couple of hours and on weekends unlimited, so they have access to everything online. The issue that really affects me is the fact that children have access to information and to sites that are not age appropriate.

The Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee reported and made recommendations. Three amendments, one to the bill and two to the explanatory memorandum, will implement the recommendations of the committee and ensure that the bill better achieves its objectives by providing a framework—this is the important part—that is workable, which it needs to be. It needs to be effective and flexible and very easy to understand. There is only one proposed amendment to the bill. This amendment provides that, in considering whether to grant an injunction, the Federal Court may take into account the list of specified matters rather than being required to take these matters into account, which enables the Federal Court to exercise discretion as to what matters to take into account as well as the appropriate weight to place on these matters. Again, there needs to be a practical approach, consistent with that normally taken by a court in assessing whether to grant an injunction.

There are two proposed amendments to the explanatory memorandum. The first relates to appropriate orders that the Federal Court may make in granting the injunction, consistent with the Federal Court of Australia Act 1976, and a supplementary explanatory memorandum providing a further example that the court could order that parties set up a landing page where subscribers will be diverted to if they try to access a disabled online location. Such a direction would have merit since subscribers will know what is going on without needing to contact their CSP to ask questions. The second amendment to the explanatory memorandum is to provide further clarification on costs and liabilities of CSPs in carrying out an order. This is the position under case law, and the bill is certainly not intended to change that.

I will go back to where I started. There are so many creative industries in Australia with a great future. We need to make sure that they get the benefit of the work they do, of their creative capacity and of their business model. This is one part of that. I commend the bill to the House.