Failure to modernise copyright laws scuttles Australia’s competitive advantage


23 March 2017


Australia’s outdated copyright laws continue to obstruct innovation as safe harbour amendments to the Copyright Act are further delayed.

In today’s digital world, copyright law and innovation are two sides of the same coin as almost every piece of online content is potentially subject to copyright. Failing to pass the safe harbours provision threatens the innovation engine that drives economic growth by creating unnecessary obstacles for Australians competing in a global digital marketplace.

Several reviews of our safe harbour laws have occurred since 2005, including most recently a review by the Australian Productivity Commission, which in its report said: “In the Commission’s view, extending the coverage of Australia’s safe harbour regime, along the lines proposed in the Australian Government’s exposure draft amendments, will improve the system’s adaptability as new services are developed. Such an expansion is consistent with Australia’s international obligations and is an important balance to the expanded protections for rights holders Australia has accepted as part of its international agreements. As such this is a legislative amendment that should be made without delay.”

More bureaucratic ink and time does not need to be spent undertaking a further review.

“It is disappointing that despite these clear benefits to Australians, the Government chose to remove the safe harbour amendments from the Bill at the 11th hour,” DIGI Managing Director Nicole Buskiewicz said.

Australia’s safe harbour scheme already provides legal protection to telcos and broadband providers if they promptly remove content that infringes copyright from their networks. This safe harbour should be to extended to a wider range of online platforms.

The digital industry will continue to engage with all sides of politics to advocate for modern copyright laws that reflect the digital age in which we live, starting with fixing Australia’s safe harbour scheme.


Under the Copyright Act, telcos and broadband providers already receive legal protection if they promptly remove user uploaded content that infringes copyright from their networks. However, Australia’s outdated copyright laws mean online service providers like search engines and university intranets are excluded.

DIGI comprises representatives from Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter and Yahoo. DIGI members collectively provide various digital services to Australians from Internet search engines to other digital communications platforms, facilitating new distribution, marketing and revenue generating channels for Australian businesses and content creators.

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