Mr. Lindsay Tanner MP
House of Representatives
Canberra ACT 2600
Dear Mr. Tanner;
With much concern I learned about the proposed extension of copyright to life+70 years in Australia under the misguided banner of harmonisation of copyright terms with the US and the EU.
The following arguments show why the change of the copyright laws are bad;
1.) No scientific, independent, economic study has shown any public benefit from such a sweeping copyright extension. On the contrary, this extension causes considerable public harm.
The harm is caused by the fact that it extends the period that the public will be required to pay fees for the use of works. It reduces the timeframe in which potentially fragile media can be copied with a massive twenty years: resulting in a tremendous threat to our cultural heritage.
This legislation is only beneficial to the very small group of 'classic' works that are still exploited, a century after publication. -- it therefore very much appears to be legislation inspired by private interests and moneyed lobbying. As an example of this, the Allens
Consulting group published a supposedly independent, but highly biased
report under the title: Copyright Term Extension: Australian Benefits and Costs ( see
This report was commissioned by a clear stakeholder, the Motion Pictures Association.
Some very important notes to this report by the well known U.S. copyright lawyer Lawrence Lessig are available online on his web site. (http://www.lessig.org/blog/archives/001522.shtml#001522)
2.) In article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights the access to cultural heritage is placed before the protection of individual author's rights, this indicates a clear priority of importance.
The proposed extension is in direct contradiction with this, and damages the careful balance between author's and the public's rights that the UDHR requires.
3.) ALL works published before 1923 are and will remain in the US's public domain!
Harmonisation between Australia's and the US's copyright laws would imply that Australia too places such works in the public domain, but, that cannot and will not happen (due to the Australian 'death + 50 year' rule).
Will these (Australian works) be in the Public domain in US and not in Australia?
It is therefore clear that the proposed extension of our copyright laws does NOT lead to harmonisation.
4.) The largest part of the world population lives in countries that maintain a life+50 regime for copyright, including all Australian neighbours. A lot of arguments can be made to remain harmonised with these countries, many of which have not shown any intention to extend their copyright period.
5.) It is not a requirement for the free-trade status with the US to be linked with the life+70 copyright protection. Canada already has free-trade relations with the US without being required to adjust its copyright term from life+50 to life+70, and, has no plans to do so
6.) The benefits of this extension seems to go to a small group of people who, in all likelihood, are only remotely related to the original authors who have been dead over 50 years. Only in some exceptional cases will children of authors benefit from this extension, in some cases grandchildren, but in most cases corporations who often have no emotional
connection with the original author.
7.) The long time span after publication of a work and the life span of the author increased with 50 years (currently) makes it very difficult to establish whom the rightfully owner(s) is/are of the copyright this is made more difficult due to the increased period after death to 70 years - 20 years is regarded as a full generation!. People involved with the creation of the work might all have died, while contracts governing the transfer of copyright might have been lost or are difficult to access or to find.
Large companies may just assert that they own copyrights, based on the fact that they originally published the works, even though original contracts specifying the exact terms under which a work was published are lost or inaccessible.
Heirs may not be aware of possible rights they have, making it practically impossible to republish a work, even if there might be a market for it.
8.) Australia is a net importer of copyrighted works.
Any extension to copyright will clearly cost the Australian economy more than it will earn, as most works covered will be of foreign origin. Even more disturbing in this light is that, as outlined in argument 3, most Australian works affected will not receive any additional copyright
protection in the US.
In summary, an extension of copyright terms inflicts considerable harm on the public, without providing any matching public benefits in return.
However, if you, in spite of these arguments, choose to extend the copyright term to life+70 years, I strongly urge you not to make such extensions retrospective, but, only apply them to works newly produced after the term comes in force.
A retrospective extension inflicts even more harm on people and institutions who have invested in a work by relying on its Public Domain status; such as for example, Project Gutenberg Australia (http://www.gutenberg.net.au/), which makes numerous out-of-print works freely available. Applying retrospective extensions to laws equals to
unreliable governance, and conflicts with the principle that people should not be deprived of their rights without extreme good cause and compensation.
A non-retrospective extension is applied in a number of countries that have (unfortunately) extended copyright terms to life+70, as for example Israel, which introduced such an extension in 1995, leaving all works of which the author died before 1934 in the public domain. Then, again, if you, in spite of these arguments choose to vote for the extension of
copyright, I urge you to assign any such newly created rights to the original author (or their heirs), and not the current copyrights-owners, on the grounds that any later transfer of copyright did not anticipate this extension, and thus did never compensate the original author of those works -- if anybody is entitled to such an extension, it should be
the original author.
For the reasons outlined above, I urge you to reject any copyright term extension on the grounds that it is bad policy and that it has no economic or other merit, or, if you decide otherwise, to inform me of your reasoning.
With kind regards,
Andrew C. Bulhak
(residential address here)
I strongly urge those of you in Australia to do the same; with Labor making noises about not being happy with the terms of the US-Australian FTA, there's a chance that, if enough people make noises about this, the copyright-extension laws required by the FTA may be rejected.
You can find your MP and their contact details here; to find out which electorate you are in, go here