Wednesday, 8 November 2006

Copyright law in Australia

via OLDaily

ABC News Online reports that the Internet Search giant Google said that the [Australian copyright] laws could open the way for Australian copyright owners to take action against search engines for caching and archiving material and effectively "condemning the Australian public to the pre-Internet era".

My position has always been that copyright issue is a civic dispute between the copyright holder and the individual. It should not be treated as a criminal case and hence waste tax-payer money to chase after "offender" on behalf of the rich and wealthy copyright holder.

The original copyright law in the western countries is a compromise between public good and private interest. The continual extension of copyright duration (and patent duration) is AGAINST public good. Government, any government, should not act on behalf of any group (noisy as it may be) against public interest. We elect representatives to the different levels of government to "protect" us, not to condemn every citizen to become a criminal1.

When a physical object is stolen, the owner is denied the enjoyment of the physical object. That's a criminal offence and government should protect and help citizen to prevent such to happen. Unlike stealing physical goods, copyright dispute does not cause harm nor deny enjoyment to the copyright owner except the "opportunity" to make some money. This is a business matter and should be dealt with as such - a civic case.

A government should be working to increase public good - that is to reduce the life time of copyright ownership and duration of exclusivity granted to patents. Resolution of copyright dispute should be initiated by the copyright owner in a civic court with the copyright owner bearing the burden of proof, burden of cost (including the defendent's lawyer unless proven guilty) and "actual" lost of income (not estimated potential lost) in the specific case. Any claim should NOT include any punitive damages. Assistance from the law enforcement agencies to help to collect evidence should be charged as at-cost rate to the copyright owner. This would ensure that copyright owner has no incentive to chase after individuals who occasionally violate copyright agreement - but still provide the legal framework for the copyright owner to chase after "whole-sale" copyright violations (those currently labelled as software prirates!)

1The current proposed copyright law allows australians to "time-shift" a TV boardcast. However, it is against the law to view the recorded program by any people other than the one who record the program and you are only allowed to view the program ONCE. I believe this will make ALL Australian to be a criminal sometime in his/her life. One scenario I can think of is watching a program recorded by my wife and we watch them together. According to the law, I should not be watching. Where is the "family" value comes in?

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