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Geoblocks must go to end digital discrimination

CHOICE says the Productivity Commission's intellectual property recommendations lay the foundations to end digital discrimination and boost competition

29 April 2016

Consumer advocacy group CHOICE has welcomed recommendations by the Productivity Commission to make copyright consumer friendly.
If implemented, the recommendations would see an end to companies blocking consumers from shopping on international websites for products and services such as music, movies, clothes and cosmetics.
"The Productivity Commission has called out the fact that copyright in Australia overly favours owners and forgets about the rights and needs of consumers."
"We'd like to see the Federal Government embrace the key recommendations of this report and end geoblocking by making it clear to consumers that they have a right to access international markets and services," says Alan Kirkland, CEO of CHOICE.
"It's time the era of geoblocking and digital discrimination ended. Consumers should no longer be restrained from accessing competition in international markets – and more accessible content benefits creators as well, being the best way to reduce piracy." 
The Productivity Commission report calls for a rework of the current user rights system, including the introduction of a broad, principles-based fair use exception. 'Fair use' is a defence to copyright infringement found in other jurisdictions that essentially asks of any particular use of copyrighted work, 'is this fair?'
"The fact is our copyright system is broken and imbalanced. It was designed for an age before Google, Netflix and countless other digital businesses that Australians have embraced." 
"Right now, all sorts of everyday, ordinary behaviour is not allowed under Australian law. It can be an infringement of copyright for a teacher to do something as harmless as record a documentary to show their class," says Mr Kirkland.
"If we adopted a fair use defence, though, this sort of ordinary behaviour would be covered."
"It's time to rebalance our copyright system to make it fair and flexible. A copyright system that supports creators and consumers in the digital age is achievable, and fair use will help us get there."
"The Productivity Commission makes it clear in its report that the copyright system is out of kilter, favouring big copyright owners over consumers. It's time to fix this problem, by adopting the reforms and making the system work for everyone."
The Productivity Commission also acknowledged that there are risks associated with international trade agreements, given these agreements substantially constrain Australia's flexibility in relation to domestic intellectual property policy. The Commission recommends that Australia not enter into any agreements that would restrict Australian consumers' rights to circumvent geoblocks, or that would extend the protection period for biologic drugs.
"The Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement will impact on our intellectual property framework, further locking in lengthy protection periods and providing a boost for medical patent holders at the expense of Australian consumers and patients."

"This is exactly the sort of trade agreement that the Productivity Commission warns against, and the Federal Government has yet to release any independent cost-benefit analysis that would justify entering into the Trans-Pacific Partnership."

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