Home Technology Regulation Google, Facebook to be excluded from safe harbour provisions: report

Google, Facebook to be excluded from safe harbour provisions: report

Legislation to make changes in safe harbour copyright provisions will be introduced in the Australian parliament today, but Google, Facebook and some local start-ups will be excluded.

The Australian Financial Review reported that the move had been confirmed by Communications Minister Mitch Fifield.

The changes to the Copyright Amendment Bill were put in cold storage in March after a number of interested parties criticised the giving of safe harbour provisions to online companies like Google and Facebook.

Safe harbour provisions protect internet service providers from court action when their users upload material that violates copyright to their platforms. The only fiat is that the providers must be adopting reasonable steps to get rid of the offending content.

The existing provisions provide ISPs with protection; this, however, does not extend to companies that provide infrastructure for the Internet.

The Productivity Commission made several recommendations around copyright law to the government last year, as part of a report on intellectual property arrangements.

It suggested allowing the use of VPNs to allow Australians to bypass geo-blocking and called for fair-use exceptions and the expansion of safe harbour provisions for online services.

In its response, the government described existing restrictions on fair use as restrictive and said that in some cases bypassing geo-blocking was warranted.

The Motion Picture Association of America, a lobby group for film studios, on the provisions made its position on the provisions clear earlier this month, expressing unhappiness with the positions of both the Productivity Commission and the government.

Fifield told the AFR: "This represents the first step taken to significantly reform safe harbour 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."

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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.