The peak body protecting and promoting the Australian visual arts sector

Copyright in Danger of Going Seriously Wrong

Media Release

The National Association for the Visual Arts (NAVA) has expressed its frustration at the persistence of the Productivity Commission in continuing to recommend the introduction of a US style ‘fair use’ copyright regime in its final report, despite the vast body of evidence from the arts industry presented to the intellectual property inquiry. This evidence demonstrates the disastrous consequences for creators and consumers of Australian content from this proposed change.

NAVA is the national peak industry body protecting and promoting the professional interests of the Australian visual and media arts, craft and design sector.

One of Australia’s most successful contemporary artists and NAVA board member, Michael Zavros asserted today, “Fair use? How about fair go? Isn’t that what Australians pride ourselves on, protecting the little guy? I’m very alarmed about these proposed changes to our copyright law. As a professional artist, I’ve learned the value of respecting intellectual property. I’ve seen my work reproduced all over the place including on products such as T-shirts without my permission. I rely on Australia’s stringent copyright laws to protect me and my fellow artists.”

“Creative economies are economies. They require due respect and payment in order to function,’” Zavros continued.

Many others in the arts industry have voiced their opposition to the proposed fair use regime on the grounds that it places the onus of proof of misuse of their work on the creators of the intellectual property who are unable to afford the costly litigation process. When up against the likes of Google and Facebook which flagrantly challenge any small scale intellectual property owner to stand up to them, there obviously is a serious imbalance of power and resources.

Internationally recognised Australian artist and NAVA board member, Sally Smart commented, “This proposal represents a serious blow to artist’s rights, undermining and devaluing artists’ intellectual property. For individual artists, having to defend the rights in their work through the courts is impossible and abusive.”

Since the introduction of the ‘fair use’ regime in the US, conflicting decisions have been made by the courts which show widespread inconsistencies in the interpretation of the law. It is feared the same ‘lawyers’ picnic’ would follow here.

Tamara Winikoff OAM, Executive Director of NAVA said today, “Shame on the Productivity Commission to be complicit in the potential destruction of the livelihood of Australian cultural producers. They have bowed to the muscle of major tech giant who will plunder our cultural product, taking the profits out of our country and leaving Australia bereft of its own stories, artworks, songs and other forms of expression of who we are, uniquely,” Winikoff continued.

”Already under attack from the federal government for the last three years, the arts industry fears this will be the last straw in Australian creators being able to earn just recompense for their efforts. ‘Fair use’ is an open invitation for the rapacious tech giants to ride roughshod over artists’ rights and just rip off whatever they please for free,” Winikoff continued.

The arts sector recognises that there is the need for reform and streamlining of copyright legislation. However, it has vehemently opposed not only the ‘fair use’ proposal but also ‘parallel importation’ which it is feared would decimate the writing and publishing industries.

“It is interesting that this report has been released just 5 days before Christmas when the nation is mostly already on holiday. Presumably they are hoping that no-one will notice the threat to trade away our cultural independence and legacy. Let’s hope the government at last will see the injustice and folly of what is being proposed and bury it for good,” Winikoff concluded.


For media comment and enquiries please contact:

Tamara Winikoff OAM, Executive Director, NAVA 02 9368 1900

Yu Ye Wu Marketing & Publicity Coordinator, NAVA 02 9368 1900 / ywu@visualarts.net.au

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