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Several proposed changes regarding "safe harbour" provisions to Australia's copyright laws have triggered debate amongst decision makers.

The provisions are set out in Division 2AA of the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) (the Act)—at the moment they protect telecommunication companies and internet service providers that inadvertently host copyright infringing content (providing they remove the content as soon as they're notified of its infringing status).

Back in December 2016, the Australian Government released an exposure draft outlining proposed amendments to the Act. Among other things, the amendments were designed to extend the "safe harbour" to search engines, online platforms and universities. This would essentially mean that users of popular social media and bulletin board websites, such as Facebook and Reddit, would be able to share infringing material and the host website would be shielded from any liability (assuming they complied with the take-down requirement).

You can probably guess what happened next...

Angry copyright holders in the sports, music, media and entertainment industries submitted and lobbied that the extension would severely threaten intellectual property rights.

So the Copyright Amendment (Disability Access and Other Measures) Bill 2017 was tabled in Federal Parliament on 22 March, noticeably without mention of any "safe harbour" provisions. Communications Minister Mitch Fifield explained the provisions were removed to "enable the government to further consider feedback received on this proposal whilst not delaying the passage of other important reforms".

At least for now it appears to remain plain sailing for Australia's "safe harbour" laws.

We're keen to hear your thoughts. Should the Government extend its protections to other online platforms, or would it obliterate existing intellectual property rights?




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