On 16 June 2015, the Senate announced the Legal and Constitution Affairs References Committee would review the impact of the recent federal budget decisions affecting the Arts, including the suitability and appropriateness of establishing the National Programme for Excellence in the Arts (NPEA) to be administered by the Ministry for the Arts.
The Advisory Council on Intellectual Property (ACIP) was recently tasked with conducting a review of the workability of the Australian registered designs system under the Designs Act 2003 (Cth) (Designs Act) and determining what improvements are required. Arts Law has been active in responding to the ACIP inquiry, focusing on the need to improve the confusing and outdated copyright/design overlap provisions in the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) and the Designs Act which, among other things, allow for copyright protection to be lost if an artistic work is reproduced on an industrial scale. Arts Law believes the overlap provisions result in artists being unable to fully exploit their work without running the risk of having their work freely copied and reproduced by others.
Arts Law is a strong advocate for the better treatment of artists and performers working in the Australian entertainment industry, particularly through the regulation of those acting as agents in that industry. Arts Law recognises that artists are often in a weak bargaining position, reluctant to take legal action and disadvantaged by a conflict of interest arising when their representative acts both for them and for a venue. Arts Law advocates greater protection for artists through reforms to the legislation regulating the entertainment industry. Such reforms include maximum agent fees, use of trust accounts, disbursement of money within fourteen days, improved record keeping and provision of financial statements, expansion of contract and information requirements and improved dispute resolution mechanisms.
Arts Law is a strong advocate for freedom of artistic and cultural expression and for legal reforms that create modern and functional safeguards protecting the right to such expression. Arts Law has made numerous submissions in response to reviews of the laws relating to artistic censorship and classification laws. Arts Law recognises the need to guard against strict censorship and classification laws which are unnecessarily restrictive and prevent freedom of artistic expression. On the other hand, Arts Law understands that freedom of expression must be balanced by appropriate safeguards for the protection of children and Indigenous culture and the constraints relating to defamation, copyright, trade practices and other laws. Arts Law advocates for a positive right to artistic expression subject to limits which are just and proportional, and which do not unfairly impede on the creation of legitimate art works. Arts Law takes the position that current debates on a proposed tort for the invasion of privacy, strict classification laws and strict regulation of digital technology must consider the possible disadvantages for freedom of artistic expression.
Arts Law advocates for a fair and effective copyright system that prevents unauthorised misappropriation of copyrighted work and ensures that artists receive credit and remuneration for their creative output. Arts Law is particularly active in promoting greater adherence to copyright laws where Indigenous art works are involved as Indigenous artists have traditionally proved more vulnerable to unethical practices and exploitation. Arts Law recognises that it is in the public interest to allow some exceptions to copyright and has lobbied for a fair balance, such as in respect of changes proposed to the fair dealing exceptions. Arts Law also advocates for the increased recognition of artists’ moral rights, including the right to be named as the creator and the right against the derogatory treatment of artistic and creative works.
Arts Law advocates for effective governance frameworks within the arts sector to provide stronger ethical and economic support to artists. Arts Law campaigns against governance policies which impose unnecessarily burdensome administrative obligations on non-profit organisations while supporting best practice standards of transparency and accountability. Arts Law also closely monitors the impact of tax law and Australian Tax Office rulings on artists. It advocates for clearer and more effective frameworks governing tax implications which address the ways in which professional artists carry on a business. On this front, together with the National Association for the Visual Artists, Arts Law has lobbied against the removal of laws permitting artwork to be held in superannuation funds.
Arts Law supports a federal Charter of Human Rights for Australia enshrining a right to freedom of expression, both artistic and cultural, and giving positive legal recognition to the cultural heritage rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander people. Arts Law advocates for artists’ rights in alignment with Australia’s international human rights obligations including commitment to economic, social and cultural rights and, in particular, Indigenous cultural and intellectual property rights. Arts Law’s advocacy work in the area of human rights gives particular emphasis to freedom of artistic expression generally and to the rights of artists who are of a minority or disadvantaged background. The Centre actively campaigns against laws and policies which are discriminatory, including those which are inconsistent with the Racial Discrimination Act.
The Arts Law Centre is a leading advocate for Indigenous artists. Its Artists in the Black service engages in advocacy and casework and has resulted in widespread benefits within the Indigenous art community with the aim of promoting Australian Indigenous art and ensuring copyright and other rights are upheld. Arts Law has advocated for better protection of Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property (ICIP) through its participation at WIPO conferences and ongoing submissions to the Federal government to enact legislative reform on this issue. Arts Law actively participated in the deliberations which lead to the introduction of The Indigenous Art Code recognising that Indigenous visual artists from remote and regional areas are often substantially disadvantaged in commercial negotiations. It has developed best practice standards for businesses and public bodies dealing with Indigenous artists which are promoted through its sample agreements, best practice document review service and educational workshops.