Jessica Mauboy is one of the musicians fronting a new campaign to protest against a proposed change to legislation.
Jessica Mauboy is one of the musicians fronting a new campaign to protest against a proposed change to legislation. Sharyn O'Neill

Australia's biggest musicians team up against new law

DELTA Goodrem, Guy Sebastian, Jessica Mauboy and John Farnham are headlining a campaign by the who's who of Australian music to stop a law change they say would hurt all artists' ability to be paid fairly for their content.

Cold Chisel, INXS, Birds of Tokyo and Human Nature are also part of the push to prevent the Federal Government from expanding the "safe harbour" provision in copyright legislation.

At the moment, safe harbour shields the likes of internet service providers that aren't seeking to profit when a customer of theirs uploads a musician's song to the web and infringes copyright.

The fear is the Government proposal would extend safe harbour to YouTube and Facebook, which do profit.

"Once you create a conversation about it, saying 'hey, look at this', with ads around it, you are in a different world," said Music Rights Australia general manager Vanessa Hutley.

"You are not passive. You essentially have a commercial interest in that content over and above being a pipe."

In an open letter to the Goverment, more than 200 top musicians ask that the proposed change to the safe harbour scheme be dropped, saying it would "chip away" at their "right to be remunerated fairly for their creative endeavours".

Ms Hutley said: "Every artist is a small business. They just want to be treated as a business (so they can pay) their mortgage and for their kids going to school."

Singer Josh Pyke
Singer Josh Pyke Kevin Farmer

Leading musician Josh Pyke said the US and Europe were going the other way to Australia.

"It would be putting us back a step," he said. "If there's a cat playing a keyboard to one of my songs and it's seen 50 billion times on YouTube it would be reasonable for me to earn royalties from that."

Amanda Brown, best-known for her work as the violinist in the band The Go-Betweens, said: "For every Delta Goodrem there are dozens if not hundreds of musicians who, like other workers such as sole traders, don't make a very-well-remunerated living.

"This is about fairness for all," she said.

Musicians are not the only content creators who would be affected; film makers, photographers and journalists would be too.

A spokeswoman for Communications Minister Mitch Fifield said the music sector's advice was welcome.

"The Government is aware of stakeholder views on the extension of the safe harbour scheme and is continuing to carefully consider these," the spokeswoman said.

Tech giants such as Google - which owns YouTube - as well as Yahoo! and Twitter have written to the Government supporting the change, saying it will "free up" business from "legal risk and uncertainty".

Cold Chisel have also signed up to the campaign.
Cold Chisel have also signed up to the campaign. Brett Wortman


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