Copyright statutes, both in Australia and internationally, have been increasingly criticised for their complexity, density and volume. The bulky reforms to the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth), enacted pursuant to the 200-plus page Copyright Amendment Act 2006 (Cth), led one parliamentarian to refer to the current state of copyright law in Australia as a ‘bugger’s muddle’. However, as this article illustrates, copyright complexity is not a modern problem. Unique provisions, resulting in a myriad of difficult legal and practical enforcement issues, have been included in copyright statutes in Australia since the first of its kind, as passed by the colony of Victoria legislature in 1869. The difference is that, today, legislatures provide greater reasons for their copyright-based decision-making and are therefore accountable for the more unusual provisions. This paper presents a history of a series of Australia’s more unconventional copyright sections, ranging from those included in the colonial copyright statutes and the Copyright Act 1905 (Cth) to the most recent iteration, an exception permitting the reproduction of Product Information documents accompanying generic pharmaceuticals. It examines the legal and practical context of these provisions with a broader view to evaluating the effectiveness of any potential copyright law reform.
Date of this Version
Catherine Bond, ""There's nothing worse than a muddle in all the world": Copyright complexity and law reform in Australia" (September 2012). University of New South Wales Faculty of Law Research Series 2012. Working Paper 44.