Copyright Agency pushed to last resort

Visual Arts Writer

Peak copyright agency forced to take the NSW Government to the Copyright Tribunal after its refusal to pay for fair use.
Copyright Agency pushed to last resort

Image: Shutterstock.com

This week, the Copyright Agency released a formal statement announcing it had been 'forced' to take the NSW Government to the Copyright Tribunal to settle a dispute over what it considers a fair rate for content use.

The peak body represents the copyright and licensing interests of thousands of Australian authors, publishers, photographers, media and content creators.

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The action is a result of five years of negotiations with the Government, which have broken down without conclusion.

Copyright Agency CEO Adam Suckling said, ‘The NSW Government is the only government in Australia refusing to pay a fair rate for using the copyright material of our members. For five years we have attempted to get the NSW Government to recognise the value in tens of millions of pages of author, publisher, researcher, photographer, cartoonist and journalist content.'

Suckling quantified the breach: ‘In this time, thousands of NSW executives and public servants have copied up to 200 million pages of copyright material without the appropriate approval or recompense for Australian creators.’

Over 200,000 NSW Government employees use and distribute copyrighted material – such as newspaper, magazine and journal articles, survey plans, photos and illustrations – in the course of their work every day.

The suit was filed before the Copyright Tribunal on Friday and states that the NSW Government owes the Agency $7.5 million in unpaid fees, reports the Government News.

According to The Australian, the Agency wants $7.30 a year for each of the state’s more than 200,000 employees, a rate the agency says all other state, territory governments and the commonwealth have agreed to. But it says the NSW government is offering much less than the market rate.

The tribunal has the capacity to set a rate it deems fair for the licensing scheme.

‘This refusal to pay a fair rate hurts Australian writers, journalists, cartoonists, photographers, publishers and visual artists, and harms their ability to invest, innovate and develop more, new Australian content,’ said Suckling. ‘There is a simple win-win solution available, which is for NSW to come to a commercial agreement in line with the Commonwealth and all other state and territory governments.’

According to Business Insider, in 2015 the NSW government made back-payments of $500,000 a year for the previous three years of copyright fees, but is alleged to have since stopped paying any fees.

‘The last such dispute between the NSW Government and the Copyright Agency took 10 years to conclude – in the Copyright Agency’s favour – and cost millions of dollars,’ Suckling noted.

The NSW Department of Justice declined to comment, saying only that they were working towards an equitable agreement.

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