I’d like to share my observations about the Copyright Agency | Viscopy, before reporting on last year’s highlights.
Three big things have struck me in my short time as CEO:
First, I am impressed by the cleverness, convenience and utility of what we do – offering blanket licences to governments, educational institutions and businesses.
These licences allow organisations in each of these sectors to cost-effectively access truly vast numbers of books, journals and images to facilitate the delivery of public services, educate young Australians and provide goods and services to consumers.
In fact, there is growing international recognition that licensing solutions like these can enable efficient and fair access to content, particularly in the online environment. For example, the respected United States Copyright Office recently recommended in its report, Orphan Works and Mass Digitization, the US should look at a similar approach as it would provide a cost-effective means of obtaining permission and therefore underpin the mass digitisation of books there.
Secondly, the licencing fees we collect provide one of the lifebloods of Australian creativity. As this report says, we distributed $136.6m to more than 10,000 content creators: publishers, media companies, surveyors, writers and visual artists.
The money we did not distribute (13.6% of revenue) was used to run the organisation.
Our distributions help enable Australian publishing companies to invest, produce new work and find new audiences across multiple platforms. The money also, critically, supports writers and visual artists, and helps sustain their ongoing creativity.
Thirdly, I have been delighted to see so much innovation. For instance, our own initiatives, LearningField and Reading Australia, are delivering educational resources to our students and teachers.
We have also provided some support to the global Copyright Hub whose aim is to tag content on the internet with a ‘unique identifier’ so that anyone who wants to use it (be it digital text, photos or video), can click on it to find out who the owner is and if it’s available for free or for a modest price.
Everyone has a stake in copyright. Pretty much all of us now create material; many of us put it on the internet. Lots of us would like people to ask our permission to use that material. And some of us – particularly those who make their living from their creative work – would like payment for the use of our creative work.
Innovation in copyright and intellectual property (IP) is a particularly live issue today, as the Productivity Commission is conducting an inquiry into Australia’s IP arrangements. We – along with other rights representatives – will provide the Commission with data to show the extent of innovation that is occurring under today’s copyright settings, outline the huge risks to innovation, investment and Australian creativity of changing some settings (i.e. adopting an American style fair use system) and we will suggest areas where copyright law can be modernised to ensure it’s able to meet the challenges of the digital age.
This report covers the period that Murray St Leger was CEO and so the significant achievements outlined here are Murray’s, and the rest of the team’s.
In this report, you will read about our 6.4 per cent growth in licensing, here and internationally, an improvement in our internal systems which meant more distributions to members this year, our first-ever payments to surveyors, and the awarding of five inaugural Cultural Fund Publisher Fellowships to Chrysoula Aiellou, Glenda Browne, Naomi Gothard, Gemene Heffernan-Smith and Andrew Wrathall. Fellowships for an author, Mark Henshaw, and two copyright researchers, Melissa de Zwart and Dimitrios Eliades were awarded in the new financial year. Our Cultural Fund and Career Funds have given $20m to creators since they began in 2004.
The importance of protecting and retaining our members rights – but with due consideration to digital changes and need for updating policy – is a constant.
There are many challenges ahead but also many opportunities to improve copyright for the benefit of everyone. I assure you we will continue to work diligently in the year ahead to ensure our copyright safety net remains strong and flexible.