Wikipedia calls for Fair Use provision in Australia

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Wikipedia webpage
Wikipedia webpage in use on a laptop computer is seen in this photo illustration taken in Washington. Reuters/Gary Cameron

Wikipedia has unveiled a campaign targeting Aussies to push for a “fair use” provision, the same as the one in the United States. It will permit reusing content as long as the act is deemed fair and will not negatively affect the market of the original content.

Proponents of the fair use provision argue that it will help Australia let loose creativity and innovation. Wikipedia owes its existence to such a provision because it would be technically illegal if it was hosted in Down Under.

Jon Lawrence, executive director of Electronic Frontiers Australia, which is teaming up with one of the world’s most popular websites, explained that the ABC logo, for instance, can be displayed in Wikipedia because an editor uploaded it as fair use. In other words, Wikipedia users are allowed to upload content thanks to the US' fair use provisions.

“If Wikipedia was based in Australia, you wouldn't see that logo,” Sydney Morning Herald quotes Lawrence as saying. Cabinet is reportedly considering a recommendation from the Productivity Commission to broaden the US right of fair use to Australia.

The extension would allow local websites, authors and teachers to quote fair use material. It would also permit libraries to display thumbnail photos of book covers in their catalogues.

Fair use vs. fair dealing

Wikipedia launched a campaign on Monday to push for Australia to follow suit. The site is the 7th most visited website in the country.

A banner that reads “Wikipedia editors and readers benefit from FAIR USE. But Australia does not. Yet. #FairCopyrightOz” will be displayed at the top of the Wikipedia page in the next few weeks. On Twitter, the Fair Copyright Oz urged that Australia needs fair use.

The country currently implements strict laws when it comes to the reuse of copyrighted materials. Australia has a “fair dealing” provision that only allows defences for the reuse of copyrighted materials such as criticism and review, news reporting, parody, satire research and study.

Several past reviews have called for the easing of certain provisions. One of these is the review by the government’s Productivity Commission, notes.

But the Copyright Agency, tasked to collect payments on behalf of authors, is reportedly fighting against the introduction of Fair Use. The agency’s chief executive Adam Suckling said it is a threat to young Australians. The government is currently considering its response to the latest recommendations.

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