Fifield to oversee govt's anti-piracy efforts

Comms department takes over Copyright Act oversight from AGD

Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull's newly minted communications minister, senator Mitch Fifield, will oversee administration of Australia's copyright regime.

The reshuffle of the government's administrative arrangements (PDF) has seen oversight of matters relating to the Copyright Act 1968 removed from the Attorney-General's Department and placed with the Department of Communications and the Arts.

(As part of Turnbull's reshuffle following the ousting of Tony Abbott as PM, Fifield was also given responsibility for the arts portfolio, which was previously the purview of attorney-general George Brandis.)

During the attorney-general's tenure as copyright chief, the government pushed through controversial legislation that allows rights holders to apply for court orders to compel ISPs to block websites linked to online piracy.

Brandis and then communications minister Turnbull also strong-armed rights holders and telcos to the table to discuss introducing a copyright warning notice scheme.

The final details of that scheme are still the subject of negotiations between the two sides.

It is not yet known what the changes to the administrative arrangements will mean for the "root and branch reform" of the Copyright Act previously mooted by Brandis.

"The Copyright Act in its current form is an act of 1968 when John Gorton was the prime minister and there are many who are of the view, and I am one of them, that the time is upon us for a comprehensive review of the Copyright Act," the attorney-general told a Senate Estimates hearing this year.

Australia's intellectual property arrangements are currently the subject of a Productivity Commission inquiry.

The inquiry follows a recommendation included in the Harper Review of competition policy that the commission examine the country's IP regime.