Government response to the Digital Platforms Inquiry

The government released its response to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) Digital Platforms Inquiry final report on 12 December 2019. The response outlines an implementation roadmap for a program of work and series of reforms to support a sustainable media landscape in the digital age. The response is available on the Treasury website.

In its response, the government stated that Australia’s copyright system is critically important to the economy and creative industries. “An effective copyright framework underpins the work of Australian artists, musicians and creators, and balances the rights of these groups to generate a return on their investments with reasonable access to copyright works.”

A significant recommendation of the ACCC’s Digital Platforms Inquiry final report in relation to copyright was recommendation 8, regarding a mandatory Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) digital platforms take-down code to assist copyright enforcement. The Australian Copyright Council’s submission on the final report and recommendation 8 can be accessed here.

For information on current provisions in the Copyright Act regarding safe harbours, please read our information sheet Safe Harbours and Takedown Notices.

Recommendation 8 is not supported by the government in its response; instead it noted that there are concerns of potential unintended effects of a code. It states that more data and further consultation with a broader range of copyright stakeholders, digital platforms and consumer groups is needed to determine appropriate options for reducing the availability of infringing material on digital platforms. The government has committed to reviewing copyright enforcement reforms made in 2018 at the end of 2020 and considers this will be an opportune time to better evaluate the opportunities for facilitating online copyright enforcement.

The government also announced immediate commitments to:

  • the establishment of a special unit in the ACCC to monitor and report on the state of competition and consumer protection in digital platform markets;
  • address bargaining power concerns between digital platforms and media businesses; 
  • commence a staged process to reform media regulation (including how to best support Australian stories on our screens in a modern, multi-platform environment) and ensure privacy settings empower consumers and protect their data: and
  • the extent of Australian content obligations on free-to-air television broadcasters (including drama and children’s content), and whether there should be Australian content obligationson subscription video-on-demand services

The government’s reform roadmap does include proposals for other codes. First, the government will ask the major digital platforms to develop a voluntary code (or codes) of conduct for disinformation and news quality, with the ACMA to oversee and report on the adequacy of the platforms’ measures no later than June 2021. Second, the government will address bargaining imbalances between digital platforms and news media by asking the ACCC to work with the relevant parties to develop and implement a voluntary code to address these concerns; this code is to be finalised no later than November 2020. If a code is not forthcoming, the government will develop alternative options to address the concerns raised in the report, which may include the creation of a mandatory code.