Member for Isaacs

Launch of Australian Copyright Council Report on the Economic Contribution of Copyright Industries to the Australian Economy - Mark Dreyfus QC MP

24 November 2014

Tonight we launch "The Economic Contribution of Australia's Copyright Industries 1996-7 to 2010-11" - a long term look at what these industries contribute to the Australian economy.

First, may I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land we meet on - and pay my respects to their elders, both past and present.

And thank you to Professor Michael Fraser AM, Chair of the Australian Copyright Council, for that kind introduction.

The Attorney-General Nicola Roxon has asked me to send her apologies. As Parliamentary Secretary for Industry and Innovation, I have responsibility for Intellectual Property Australia and as a QC, I am fascinated about how the law in this area will need to adapt to changing technologies.


So, tonight we launch "The Economic Contribution of Australia's Copyright Industries 1996-7 to 2010-11" - a long term look at what these industries contribute to the Australian economy.

In these times of significant change for copyright - with a high speed digital economy - it is always beneficial to receive these valuable and timely contributions to the debate, especially when they are based on empirical data and statistics.

Not surprisingly, this report has found that Australia's copyright industries make a very significant contribution to our economy, with the industries now:

  • employing just over 900,000 people, or eight per cent of the total workforce';
  • generating more than $90 billion in economic value, or 6.6 per cent of GDP;
  • and also generating nearly $7 billion in exports, or nearly 3 per cent of all exports.

What many people outside the industry might not realise is that all these numbers mean that the copyright industries in Australia generate more value than the entire retail sector, and slightly less than manufacturing.

But, the report also highlights some of the challenges that copyright industries are facing - including adjusting to the high Australian dollar, more competition based on price, changing distribution channels and illegal downloading - and all this is of course occurring while many companies are still recovering from the Global

But can I say ladies and gentlemen, while there are many challenges, I am an optimist. In this changing digital world, which will only speed up with the development of the NBN, we must look for the opportunities rather than lament the losses.

It's hard to believe that in 2012, we are nearly twenty years into the digital age. The internet has led to, and continues to drive structural adjustments to copyright industries and new technologies are also changing how governments should respond and regulate.

And while some people may be wringing their hands and saying that newspapers and books "won't exist" anymore. They're "dead". I've heard that a few times. I say that it's not that they "won't exist" - it's that the nature and delivery of the product will change.

Just as the printing press did not kill authorship, phonograms did not kill live music, radio did not kill live performances, cinema did not kill theatre, television did not kill cinema, video killed neither cinema nor the radio star - the eBook will not kill paper backs.

The internet and the digital age will not kill the production of culture. There will always be a demand. In 2009, I chaired on behalf of the Australian Labor Party a committee looking into policy changes into - depending on where you sit on the issue - territorial copyright or parallel importation rules. We heard dire predictions about the end of the book. And while this hasn't happened, we all know that technological developments mean that there are going to be some changes.

However, as we have seen and experienced with other technological developments - the old business models will fall by the wayside, while new models and those that adapt will thrive.

The difference between previous technological developments and the internet is that the internet offers access to all categories of copyright material.

In the past, the new technologies - that I've just given a quick list of some of them - provided greater access to a single class of copyright material. With the internet, access to works is converged. The internet and digital technology has fundamentally altered the production and consumption of cultural works and the creative industries.

As you all know, divergent interests are not new within the copyright arena. In the past, a win for copyright holders has been seen as losses for users, and vice versa.

But as we now embrace the digital economy together, it's important that both rights holders and users look to bridge this traditional divide and work more closely together. The responsibility for generating policies is now shared among all of you - it shouldn't just rest with governments.

In the future, we will need to develop national and international copyright infrastructures, not necessarily just the development of copyright laws. The future will be collaboration across industries, governments, institutions and consumers. The future for copyright industries will be in aligning business models with legitimate consumer expectations - particularly on delivery and price - and digital realities.

What is driving a lot of this change is that the traditional binary relationship between copyright owners and users has become more complex. Intermediaries, such as ISPs, search engines and other social media, as well as service providers and telephone companies are becoming major players in the delivery of content. You all are now operating in a much more complex web of copyright relationships.

So, I urge you to consider what new coalitions can be formed, where common interests lie, so that we can all take advantage of what the digital economy has to offer.

IP Changes around the World

And in an area that I work closely on, intellectual property, Australia is not the only country grappling with these changes.

Internationally, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is making some very significant advances in international law.

As an example, Australia recently attended a meeting in Beijing to conclude the WIPO treaty that deals with the protection of audiovisual performances. This treaty fills a longstanding gap in the international protection for performers.

It is very significant that China hosted the meeting. In the Asian century it is heartening that the Chinese Government is becoming positively involved in the international intellectual property system. The Government has already started to consider whether Australia should become a party to the treaty and we will be consulting and seeking your views on this decision.

And at another recent WIPO meeting in Geneva, Australia took a significant step and voiced its commitment to concluding a binding treaty for exceptions for persons with a print disability. Previously, many countries expressed support for "an instrument", which could be voluntary and form part of customary international law.

We think that only approximately 5 per cent of all books produced are published in accessible formats such as large print, audio or braille. That's why the Australian delegation expressed support for a treaty that:

  • can operate where there is market failure in the supply and distribution of accessible formats;
  • doesn't hinder the development of new business models and technological advancements for commercial distribution of accessible formats;
  • encourages a harmonised international approach to copyright limitations and exceptions; and
  • safeguards the legitimate commercial interests of authors and publishers.

Government's Copyright Reforms

Tonight, I would like to reaffirm the Government's commitment to copyright industries. Not only do they contribute to our economy - they build a culture of innovation and artistic endeavour in Australia.

Sometimes - some might say often - the law can struggle to keep pace with rapid technological change. For instance, Australia's safe harbour scheme is narrower than the USA's, some databases aren't covered by copyright and in this changing environment, we must also make sure that copyright content holders can monetise their content, seek out new distribution channels and enforce the Copyright Act.

That's why we have asked the Australian Law Reform Commission to conduct a substantial review into copyright in the digital economy. The ALRC are due to present their issues paper in the coming weeks.

I would strongly encourage each of your organisations to have your say on how current exceptions are working and whether new exceptions are needed.

Changing technologies are also the reason why the Government is working with the National Library of Australia and publishers to expand a legal deposit scheme and why we have started a review into technological protection measures. This review will make sure the level of legal protection for digital copyright locks remains appropriate.

The Attorney-General's Department is also working with industry to develop solutions on the issue of unauthorised file sharing and copyright infringement. The roundtable discussions to date have been constructive and participants have agreed to continue discussions to work through the details of a possible notice scheme.

The Department will continue to host these discussions while the parties remain engaged and constructive dialogue continues. But the Government reserves its right to take further action in this area if stakeholders do not work together. The Government's hope is that an industry-led solution can be found.


While the digital environment offers many opportunities for industries across the nation, it can also stump up challenges too. And for the copyright industries, this is no different.

But for industries that have offered so much to Australian culture, through the creation of TV programs, books, film, computer games, music and more, I'm sure that you will use your creative streak to find solutions to the challenges that confront all of you today.

In closing, I want to commend Australia's authors, musicians, actors, publishers, film makers - and I hope I'm not forgetting anyone here - and programmers for adding much to the quality and happiness of Australian life as well as its economic welfare. I also acknowledge the emerging role that intermediaries have in the copyright industries.

And I congratulate the Australian Copyright Council for commissioning this important research.

I look forward to working with you all in the future.

Thank you.