THE AUSTRALIAN Government’s Digital Agenda copyright reforms are effective and working well, according to the results of analysis undertaken by commercial law firm Phillips Fox.
The firm was engaged to analyse key elements of the reforms, which were introduced in 2000 to update Australia’s copyright regime and take into account the rapid development of new technologies. It found that “in general, the Digital Agenda Act is achieving its objectives and is working well”.
The results follow a parliamentary ruckus involving Queensland Senator Joe Ludwig and the Minister representing Attorney-General Philip Ruddock in the Senate over the mid-tier firm’s involvement in the Digital Agenda reforms, detailed in two recent Lawyers Weekly reports.
A request for tender had secured the firm’s involvement in analysing the reforms. “We responded to a request for tender and the department was satisfied with our methodology,” said IT partner at Phillips Fox, Matthew Hall.
Justifying his interest in the matter, Ludwig said the Attorney-General’s department declares publicly those consultants on which it has spent over a certain amount. “Significant contracts are put on the web. I look at what contracts are there, and some stand out more than others as interesting,” he said.
Ludwig asked questions “to scrutinise, to ensure money is well spent by the Commonwealth, and that it is transparent”, he said.
The report, released last week, followed extensive consultation with a range of copyright stakeholders. It claimed that while most submissions supported the view that, generally, “the decisions and objectives of the Government in implementing the Digital Agenda Act [were] on the right track”, some of the issues raised were “very contentious”.
Also, not all amendments had necessarily achieved an appropriate balance of rights and obligations nor had there necessarily been “no room for improvement or change”.
There was a clear need for further empirical data to be collected, the recommendations by Phillips Fox stated, “at least in relation to the impact and effect of the library copying provisions and the educational statutory licence”.
The report said it also had been acknowledged that within the community and within particular community and “owner” groups there was “a real lack of a proper understanding of the law as it exists and owners’ and users’ rights and obligations”.
Phillips Fox welcomed the opportunity to work with the Attorney-General’s Department on the project, the firm said.
“Phillips Fox also wishes to express its thanks to all those who participated in each public forum and those who made submissions, as their efforts added greatly to our understanding of the various points of view and positions advocated by various interests,” Hall said.
“We hope our recommendations will help Australia to continue to meet the challenge for copyright law to keep up with the rapid pace of technological development, and ensure Australia remains competitive in the information economy.”