Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Wikipedia calls for Fair Use provision for content as Australian copyright debate drags on

GOOGLE, Wikipedia and VCRs could never have been invented in Australia, but a simple change in copyright law could change that

Critics of Australia’s copyright laws often point to the high profile case of Australian band Men at Work being sued for their hit song Down Under. Picture: Michael Ochs

ONE of the world’s most popular websites has weighed in on the debate over Australia’s strict, and what many see as outdated, copyright laws.

Wikipedia has launched a campaign targeting Australians to push for the government to introduce a “fair use” provision like in the US which permits the reuse of content, as long as it’s deemed to be fair and doesn’t hurt the market of the original content. Proponents say it will help Australia unlock creativity and innovation.

Wikipedia which displays logos and information on an array of topics owes its existence to such a provision because if it was hosted in Australia, it wouldn’t technically be legal.

In fact a number of the online services we enjoy including Google could not have started in Australia because the cataloguing of the internet is not expressly permitted and it’s very possible rights holders could have sued it out of existence.

Even the advent of VCRs which let people record shows on TV could have been nixed by rights holders had they originated in Australia.

But in the US a “fair use” provision enshrined in the country’s copyright law allows companies to use copyrighted material to do things deemed to be in the public interest.

Wikipedia — the 7th most visited website in Australia — launched a campaign today to push for Australia to follow suit and adopt more flexible laws around the copying and reuse of content.

If you visit Wikipedia in the next few weeks, you will see a banner displayed at the top of the page with the message: “Wikipedia editors and readers benefit from FAIR USE. But Australia does not. Yet. #FairCopyrightOz”

It’s been an area of debate for nearly two decades.

Australia currently has strict laws around the reuse of copyrighted material. Instead of a “fair use” allowance, Australia has a “fair dealing” provision which only allows limited defences for the reuse of copyrighted material including research and study, criticism and review, parody and satire, and news reporting.

A number of past reviews have called for the easing of certain provisions, the latest of which is a review by the government’s Productivity Commission which released a draft report in April last year.

As the Wikipedia campaign points out, “six government reports since 1998 have recommended Australia adopt Fair Use.”

Currently the government is considering its response to the latest recommendations.

The Copyright Agency, which collects payments on behalf of authors, is fighting hard against the introduction of Fair Use saying it will harm the ability of artists to make a living and receive proper compensation for the use of their work.

“This is not just unfair, it is a threat to jobs of young Australians and means the next generation of Australian filmmakers, songwriters, artists and authors will not be able to make a living,” the agency’s chief executive Adam Suckling said.

But critics often point to the case of popular Australian band Men at Work being sued for their iconic hit Down Under in 2010. The band were sued by plaintiffs who claimed the flute riff played by Greg Ham in the song was taken from iconic children’s song Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree, written by Melbourne teacher Marion Sinclair for a Girl Guides jamboree in 1934.

Men at Work band members were ordered to pay five per cent of their royalties from the song to the plaintiffs.

Professor Nicolas Suzor from the law department of Queensland University of Technology believes a fair use doctrine in Australian copyright law would help facilitate creativity and drive innovative projects.

“Overall there’s something really strange going on here, because in other countries, particularly in the US we see that fair use is actually a vital part of the creative process” he told news.com.au back in December.

“Creatives are scared,” he said. “In the transition to the digital economy people have had to change business models and people are really worried about copyright infringement and something really strange has happened; we’ve started to confuse fair use with pirates,” he said.

Jessica Coates of the Australian Digital Alliance — which represents librarians and is also partnering with Wikipedia on the latest campaign — told Fairfax on Monday that introducing a fair use provision would future-proof the law so it didn’t need to be updated with every new wave of digital technology.

“It took until 2006 to legalise taping a TV show on a video cassette recorder in Australia, by which time most VCRs were already mothballed,” she said. “We need copyright law that focuses not on specific technologies but on what is fair.”


Childless couples 'on track to be Australia's most common family type'

A society dominated by childless couples could become Australia's reality, with data analysis suggesting they will become the most common family type by 2023.

One sociologist says the trend is already happening, and future government policy will determine whether the traditional family model continues to exist.

For many millennials, like 23-year-old Karim Eldib, changing financial and social realities are important factors in the choice to have kids.

"[A lot of people] get the point where they say 'yep, going to have a child', and they don't think about all the things that come with having children," Mr Eldib said.

"I'm in a relationship and there has been talk of that but it's not something that we're seriously considering — it's something we'd like to consider after we've done all the things we want to do."

Is being a mum worth it?

"Nobody warned me" are words that resonate with many new mums. And, as some women share with the ABC, that's especially true when you're depressed, wetting yourself at every sneeze and feeling inadequate against idealistic images of motherhood on Instagram

His view is shared by other couples delaying their decision to extend their families, a trend which paired with Australia's ageing population means the nuclear family is in decline.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates between 2023 and 2029, there will be more people in a relationship living without children than families with kids.

Jackie Mahony and Trina Gilchrist, who are raising two-year-old Angus together, said the decision to have a child took a lot of thought.

    "For us I think it's very much about should we just have the one child? One is easy for us," Ms Mahoney said.

"We've been in a really long-term relationship — 13 years coming on and Angus was certainly a part of that relationship and conversation," said Ms Gilchrist.
Future policy will impact family choices

University of Melbourne sociologist Leah Ruppanner said while the trend of not having children varies between countries, it is already happening in Australia.

"[The trend is most evident in] a lot of countries like South Korea and Japan, where their populations are shrinking because they are not having enough babies," Dr Ruppanner said.

"One of the things is governments need populations to grow because it means you have people paying taxes, people looking after the older generation, and people supporting the economy."

Bronwyn Harman of Edith Cowan University, who studies social responses to childless couples, said the public has become more accepting of non-traditional families.

"In the past, we had the traditional family of mum, dad and the kids — mum stayed at home, dad was the bread-winner. We know that's not true now," Dr Harman said.

She expects the 2016 Census data, which has not been fully released yet, will show an increase in households without children.


Moroccan Soup Bar owner Hana Assifiri only hires Muslim women

This would appear to be contrary to Australian anti-discrimination law

THE owner of a Melbourne soup bar has described her policy of only hiring Muslim women as “positive discrimination”.

Moroccan Soup Bar owner Hana Assifiri, a self-described “Muslim feminist” who successfully campaigned to prevent human rights activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali from visiting Australia in April, was featured on the ABC’s religious affairs program Compass on Saturday.

The program described Moroccan Soup Bar as a “restaurant with a difference”, and Ms Assifiri as “on a mission to combat rising Islamophobia”.

In the documentary, she tells customers about “fear mongering”. “If I was to believe what I saw about Muslims on telly, I would be fearing Muslims as well,” she said.

Ms Assifiri runs regular “Speed Date a Muslim” sessions at her Fitzroy restaurant, where customers are encouraged to come and ask Muslim women any questions they like about Islam — “nothing is off the table”.

She explained that her hiring policy was a way of empowering Muslim women. “It’s positive discrimination,” she said. “You need to establish an environment that you know speaks to and engages and is relevant to Muslim women.

“There’s not a day that a woman walks through the door where she needs a job and I don’t give her a job, even though I don’t need workers. I believe in empowerment rather than charity, not only through monetary employment but being in an environment which is validating.”

Staff at the restaurant are allowed to drop everything to pray, even during busy service. “They say, ‘I’m going to pray’, they go pray, halfway through a shift, halfway through a meal, halfway through the chaos,” Ms Assifiri said.

“Some women will pray five times a day, some will accumulate them all until they go home, some need to pray at the time prayer’s called, some don’t pray. It’s not imposed, it’s at their discretion. It is what it is.”

Ms Assifiri highlighted examples of alleged Islamophobia. “Every night I will come in and go, ‘Now girls, what happened today?’, and somebody will tell me they were filling up petrol and they were accosted by a bunch of people and their hijab was pulled off,” she said.

“Customers would say to me things like, ‘Why [has] that woman got that thing on her head?’, and I go, ‘It’s a symbol of her faith’, and the guy then said, ‘The only thing it’s symbolic of is beheadings and honour killings’, and I went, ‘Woah, good thing you’re here to eat, mate.’”

Waitress Layalle El Najib told the program the Moroccan Soup Bar was “full-on”. “Even though you might not need a resume to get in, you still need to be strong minded, strong willed to work here,” she said.

“As long as you’re respectful to one another, I don’t care if you’ve got long hair, black hair, blonde, black, white, work is work.”

According to the Human Rights Commission, discrimination in employment on the basis of religion “occurs when someone does not experience equality of opportunity in employment because of their religion”.

“Example: An employer refuses to offer an employee a role serving customers because she wears a hijab,” the HRC website reads.

Human Rights Commissioner Edward Santow said federal anti-discrimination legislation “does not prohibit discrimination based on religion unless it is connected to a person’s ethnicity”.

“Religious freedom is protected under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” he said. “This means everyone has the right to freedom of religion and everyone has the right to worship according to their religious belief, subject only to laws that are necessary to protect public safety, order, health or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.

“Australia also has obligations under the International Labour Organisation Convention to ensure employers do not discriminate on the basis of race, sex, religion, political opinion or social origin.”


Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here

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