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Copyright laws rehashed

Recent announcements by the Attorney-General Philip Ruddock concerning proposed changes to the Australian copyright laws might finally enable users of iPods to rip, copy and transfer music within the confounds of the Australian copyright laws. And about time. The speed of technological innovation in this country has long been 3 steps ahead of the regulatory framework in which it operates; one only has to look at the common act of recording television and other media onto videocassettes that has flown in the face of dysfunctional Australian copyright laws for decades.

But the Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA) seems to have served as a catalyst for the Government to reassess the effectiveness and appropriateness of its longstanding technology-lagging copyright laws.

The new copyright laws create tougher penalties for copyright infringers. It is also proposed that police will be empowered to issue on-the-spot fines to persons engaged in the pirating of material under copyright.

There are also new rights available to end users. Some of the proposed new copyright laws might allow the following:

  • The ability to engage in time shifting – that is, to allow the recording of television and radio programs for subsequent viewing;
  • The ability to engage in format shifting – that is, to allow the copying of certain media between MP3 players and other hardware.