Google, Facebook Excluded from Safe Harbor Protections In Australia

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photo: marselelia (CC0)

Australian lawmakers just excluded Google and Facebook from safe harbor protection.  Could other governments soon follow suit?

Earlier today, the Australian federal government announced that it would introduce legislation that would extend copyright safe harbor provisions.  Educational institutions, libraries, and organizations in the disability, archive, and culture sectors would be protected.

But the safe harbor provisions won’t cover Google and Facebook, as well as a number of Australian start-ups in the country.  Currently, safe harbor provisions only apply to commercial ISPs.

Speaking with the Australian Financial Review, Communications Minister Mitch Fifield confirmed the move.

Lawmakers had initially introduced Schedule 2 of the Copyright Amendment Bill last March.  They shelved the proposed legislation after multiple content owners from across various sectors of the entertainment industry blasted the changes.  The protests came from a swath of different sectors, including music, TV, and journalism.

The legislation would have originally extended copyright safe harbor protections to Google and Facebook.  Rights holders argued, however, that platforms like YouTube and Facebook readily exploit similar provisions in the US and Europe.  Both platforms have been widely criticized for exploiting user-generated content for profit without obtaining proper licenses.

Lobbying groups arguing against extending safe harbor protections included the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA), Foxtel, the Australian Football League, and News Corp.

Speaking about the proposed safe harbor provisions, Fifield said,

“This represents the first step taken to significantly reform safe harbor legislation after more than 10 years of debate and multiple reviews.  The measures in the bill will ensure these sectors are protected from legal liability where they can demonstrate that they have taken reasonable steps to deal with copyright infringement by users of their online platforms.”

According to the Australian Financial Review, Google, Facebook, and several Australian start-ups had “intensely” lobbied politicians for safe harbor provisions.   They argued that their platforms handle “large volumes of user-generated content on their platforms.”

Rightsholders countered, stating that they often engage in costly lawsuits in the US and Europe to enforce their copyrights.

Fifield added that the government will “continue to work with stakeholders on further reform to safe harbor provisions before looking to apply it to other online service providers.”

Extending the safe harbor scheme in this way will provide greater certainty to institutions in these sectors.  It will also enhance their ability to provide more innovative and creative services for all Australian.


Featured image by Nick Youngson (CC by 3.0)

One Response

  1. Reality

    This is called “fundraising.” Nothing more, nothing less. When govt officials need money they stir the pot and draw out lobbyists so they can raise money. Solving some “problem” or serving any community is way down at the bottom of their priorities.