• A.B Originals' Briggs and Dan Sultan are two of the many Indigenous artists who have signed an open letter to the government rejecting changes to copyright. (Facebook)Source: Facebook
The biggest names in Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander arts & entertainment have come together to sign an open letter to the Australian Government, rejecting Productivity Commission recommendations to change copyright protections.
Emily Nicol

15 Feb 2017 - 7:17 PM  UPDATED 15 Feb 2017 - 7:29 PM

The Commission’s final report into Intellectual Property Arrangements was handed over to the government late last year, the result of a 12 month inquiry in to policy in areas such as copyright and fair use.

Amongst its findings, the report states that the current copyright arrangements "are skewed too much in favour of copyright owners to the detriment of consumers and intermediate users."

With digital innovation, there has been a rapid change on how we consume content, so whilst a report such as this is necessary, there is an uproar over what the recommended changes will mean for locally produced content.

The open letter, signed by artists such as Jessica Mauboy, Dan Sultan, Bruce Pascoe, Rachel Maza and many more,and released today by  Copyright Agency, reads as follows:

'We the undersigned unanimously reject the Productivity Commission’s Recommendations on copyright in Australia. The recommendations to change copyright protections will harm the ability of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander film and television makers, writers, artists, musicians and journalists to tell Indigenous stories and make a living. 

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists and creators have a right to receive fair payment for their work. The changes to Australian copyright laws being pushed by the Productivity Commission, large organisations and big technology companies will greatly diminish these protections.

This is not just unfair, it is a threat to the artistic mob and means it may be even harder to make a living for the next generation of artists.

Our kids should be able to grow up inspired by artists like Albert Namatjira and Emily Kame Kngwarreye, listening to music from artists like Dan Sultan and Jessica Mauboy and watching movies like Bran Nue Dae and Samson and Delilah and TV shows like Black Comedy and Basically Black and reading books like Shake a Leg and My Place. Ownership, responsibility and control by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples of their cultural heritage is paramount.

The suggested changes will have a detrimental impact on the stories, imagery, knowledge and heritage which is embodied in our story-telling and artistic works. Ownership is also a way of economic empowerment for those artists who earn money from selling, reselling and reproducing their works. We call on the Australian Government and parliament to rule out these proposed changes from the Productivity Commission.'

One of the signatories, celebrated author Bruce Pascoe, tells NITV that the proposed changes will have a big effect, "I'm a professional writer and depend on royalties from book sales for a living. Any changes to copyright law will negatively affect me. Economic rationalism was a bad idea for small nations and an even worse idea for small English speaking nations."

The full list of artists who have signed the open letter:

  • Vernon Ah Kee (Artist)
  •  Jada Alberts (Actor, Writer, Director)
  • Dave Arden (Musician)
  • Bronwyn Bancroft (Artist, Fashion Designer and Copyright Agency Board Member)
  • Bibi Barba (Artist)
  • William Baron (Performer, Composer)
  • Larissa Behrendt (Filmmaker, Academic)
  • Richard Bell (Artist)
  • Kevin Bennett (Musician)
  • Rachel Bin Salleh (Publisher)
  • Mervyn Bishop (Filmmaker)
  • Wayne Blair (Filmmaker, Director, Actor)
  • Brendon Boney (Singer, Songwriter)
  • Adam Briggs (Musician, Writer,Actor)
  • Troy Cassar-Daley (Musician)
  • Beck Cole (Director and Screenwriter)
  • Brenda Croft (Curator, Academic)
  • Julie Dowling (Artist)
  • Leah Flanagan (Singer, Songwriter)
  • Julie Gough (Artist, Writer and Curator)
  • Aroha Groves (Artist, Designer)
  • Anita Heiss (Author, Presenter and Commentator)
  • Rarriwuy Hicks (Actor)
  • Terri Janke (Copyright Lawyer)
  • Melissa Lucashenko (Writer)
  • Jessica Mauboy (Singer, songwriter, Actress)
  • Rachael Maza (Artistic Director, Actor, Narrator)
  • Philip McLaren (Author,Academic)
  • Sally Morgan (Author, Dramatist)
  • Hunter Page-Lochard (Actor)
  • Bruce Pascoe (Writer, Teacher, Historian)
  • Sandra Phillips (Academic, Chair of the First Nations Australia Writers’ Network (FNAWN) and Chair of the Advisory Board of the Centre for Indigenous Story)
  • Leah Purcell (Actor, Director, Writer)
  • Kim Scott (Novelist, Writer)
  • Shari Sebbens (Actor)
  • Bjorn Stewart (Actor, Writer)
  • Dan Sultan (Singer, Songwriter)
  • Jared Thomas (Author, Playwright, Poet, Academic)
  • Gina Williams (Singer, Songwriter)
  • Tara June Winch (Writer)
  • Jason Wing (Artist)

The following organisations have also signed:

  • AACHWA (Peak body for Aboriginal Art Centres across Western Australia)
  • Boomalli (Aboriginal Artists Co-operative representing 50 artists) •
  • Desart (representing over 40 Central Australian Aboriginal Art Centres)
  •  Indigenous Art Centre Alliance (Representing 13 arts centres across far north Queensland)
  • Koori Heritage Trust
  • Moogahlin Performing Arts Incorporated

A social media campaign has been launched to raise awareness of the proposed changes and what that means for working artists. #freeisnotfair & #respectcreators mark the conversation as it continues on Facebook and Twitter.