Earlier in the week we wrote about the ABC legal department’s threat to take “whatever action it considers appropriate” to make Crikey take down video we posted to YouTube of Penny Wong’s address to the National press Club announcing detail of the Rudd Government’s carbon trading plans.

As we wrote on Tuesday:

We also thought Crikey readers might be interested in this small insight into the thinking of the taxpayer-funded national broadcaster. Clearly by strict definition, we have infringed the ABC’s copyright. But you might also argue that the ABC broadcasts functions like National Press Club lunches addressed by the environment minister as an act of public service conducted in line with its legislated charter obligations. You could also argue that we aided in that objective by promoting the ABC-watermarked footage that little bit further through on-line links and YouTube.

It seems that now, the ABC agrees. We received the following letter yesterday from the head of ABC legal, Rob Simpson:

The ABC takes the view that its consent should be obtained for use of material in which the ABC holds copyright, particularly where other media players or commercial operators are involved (unless there is a legally recognised right of use such as fair dealing). Depending on the circumstances, we may or may not give our approval and we may agree to a commercial arrangement.

We would obviously be concerned if, for example, another broadcaster took our program and rebroadcast it without permission. The ABC is also mindful of the need to obtain the best results for the funding provided by Australian taxpayers as well as contributing to the Australian community and delivering on our Charter.

Ultimately it is the weighing up of factors such as these which guides the ABC in its decision making. In the case of the letter to Crikey regarding the National Press Club address, we did not achieve the appropriate outcome. The right approach would have been to note the breach of copyright but to consent to the use of the footage. Recognising this, the ABC no longer objects to its coverage of Senator Wong’s address being placed by Crikey on YouTube.

Thanks Rob, and for those who missed it, here is that Penny Wong footage again. Very funny stuff.

Peter Fray

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