On copyright and the vision impaired

CEO Copyright Agency Adam Suckling writes: Re. “First group new parliament disappoints: the blind” (yesterday).  I write in response to Josh Taylor’s piece in Crikey on the parliamentary amendments to make it easier for the visually impaired to access published books.

Organisations representing Australian arts, literature, screen and content industries support amending the Copyright Act to make it easier for disabled people to access published books, simplify the statutory licence for education and make changes that will benefit libraries. These amendments continue Australia’s role as a leader in introducing access to material for people with disabilities. Indeed, Australia has already ratified the international treaty for the visually impaired and has had access provisions for people with disabilities in place for over 35 years.

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The approach used to arrive at these amendments, where diverse stakeholders agreed on a way forward within a framework set by the government, provides a model for reforming the Copyright Act. The agreed approach ensures that Australians have access to material across a wide range of platforms, while also ensuring that Australian creators are remunerated fairly.

But the highly controversial “Safe Harbour” provisions should be dropped from the legislation at this time. These provisions  will seriously weaken copyright protections for our creative community  and are strongly opposed by major content creators. The government should remove this contentious schedule and proceed with the amendments in the current Bill that would benefit the visually impaired.

On the plebiscite

Peter Matters writes: Re. “Why the govt needs legislation to hold marriage plebiscite” (yesterday). If an MHR submits a private member’s bill to provide universal marriage rights and the majority of the House agrees to proceed with it, it will be passed in both the House and the Senate. Gay people deservedly will have their dream come true, the taxpayers will have a large amount of extra money to use on desperately urgent education and health improvements and both House and Senate will have the bill they wanted. Last but not least, Malcolm and Bill will have discovered an obvious method to proceed with a large number of bills the majority of the of members — other than the Coalition troglodytes — agree on.

The reactionaries may scream their heads off in vain, but their real impotence will be publicly exposed and Parliament will function as it should – not as a bunch of schoolboys brawling behind the shelter shed – but as a civilised forum where members can reach agreement to the benefit of our country.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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