Time to fast-forward copyright past the VHS era

[box border=”full”]CHOICE today released new research showing one in seven consumers are breaking the law by copying music or videos they own onto devices like iPods and tablet computers for personal use, highlighting the absurdity of Australia’s outdated copyright regime.[/box]

CHOICE has provided the research to the Australian Law Reform Commission’s (ALRC) Copyright Inquiry, with a call to bring Australia’s copyright laws into the 21st century.

“Our current law says it’s OK to copy a song onto one device, like your iPod, but illegal to copy it onto two, like your iPod and iPad. But that’s exactly what 8 per cent of Australians who answered our survey say they have done in the past year,” says Matt Levey, CHOICE Director of Campaigns and Communications.

“It’s also illegal to copy a video file, say from a DVD, onto another device like a tablet, but that has not stopped 9 per cent of Australians who say they have done it. Hardly surprising, given that 57 per cent of Australians told us they believe this action is legal.” Mr Levey says.

CHOICE is supporting the ALRC’s move to upgrade Australia’s copyright system with a ‘fair use’ approach that rewards creators and copyright holders without unfairly restricting consumer rights or holding back new technologies.

The consumer group says current laws have not only failed to keep up with the changing ways Australians are using digital products, they are also denying local consumers and businesses the benefits of innovation.

“In 1987, over half Australian households had a VCR, but it only became legal to record TV shows at home in 2006. By then, 83 per cent of us had DVD players, and Apple had already been selling movies and TV shows on iTunes for a year.”
Mr Levey says.

“Now, consumers are increasingly streaming, storing and backing up data in the cloud, but Australians risk being denied new services because our laws are stuck in the VHS age.”

“Governments can talk all they like about encouraging innovation, but when some of the biggest digital breakthroughs coming out of places like Silicon Valley aren’t even legal in Australia, it shows we need to fast forward our way to fair use.”

CHOICE largely supports the Fair Use system proposed by the ALRC, which received over 290 submissions from stakeholders, including content producers.

This proposed system would include ‘fairness factors’ to protect copyright against infringement or other uses which may have a large impact on the market for the copyrighted material.

“Fair Use will allow consumers greater use of content they legally own, while at the same time protecting content producers and artists. America has a Fair Use system, and is one of the largest producers of copyrighted content in the world,”
Mr Levey says.

“Allegations that Fair Use will encourage piracy are ludicrous, and exhibit a fundamental misunderstanding of how a Fair Use system will work.”

CHOICE has made a submission to the Commission’s review. It is now calling on consumers to pledge their support for Fair Use at www.choice.com.au/makeitfair. You can follow the campaign on Twitter with #makeitfair.

2 Comments on "Time to fast-forward copyright past the VHS era"

  1. Yes Lauren, copying to more than one device is considered illegal, although the Choice campaign aims to change this. Head over to the full Choice article for more info or to join the conversation there.

  2. I have heaps of CDs that I bought years ago and have transferred them to my computer and phone for personal use. Is this illegal? Also, I have heaps of VHS tapes that I bought years ago as well, so would it be illegal for me to transfer them to my computer or onto a DVD. I have an old VHS player but as it gets older and the VHS tapes get older, it would be better to transfer them to DVD or on the computer than keep trying to play them on a VHS player.

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