This week Wikipedia is urging users in Australia to tell their government representatives to champion fair use. The campaign, organised alongside Electronic Frontiers Australia and the Australian Digital Alliance, advocates for policy makers to update copyright law to include fair use, thus providing a progressive legal framework to support creators and remixers, educational activities, and new business opportunities.
Fair use is the legal doctrine already adopted in a few countries that permits use of copyrighted works without permission for purposes such as reporting, criticism, and research. For example, news broadcasts oftentimes use snippets of copyrighted videos in their programs to illustrate a story. They are able to do this without permission and without having to pay a license fee because of fair use. This exception to copyright provides a crucial balance between the interests of copyright holders and the public interest. It promotes creativity and transformative remix and protects freedom of expression.
The issue is important to the Wikipedia community because around 10% of the English Wikipedia’s 5 million articles incorporate some content under fair use.
Over the last 20 years, the Australian government has recommended several times that fair use be adopted into its copyright regime. The campaign launched during the country’s most recent push for incorporating fair use. Last year, Australia’s Productivity Commission provided a strong recommendation for fair use. Not surprisingly, the big rights holders organisations continue to fight against the adoption of a fair use exception. Just last month it was reported that the Copyright Agency, a copyright collective management group that is supposed to collect and disburse copyright royalty payments to authors, diverted millions of dollars to fund lobbying activities to fight against fair use reforms.
Australians should tell their elected representatives: It’s time for fair use.