Providing a voice on copyright issues

The voice of the Asia–Pacific region on copyright issues is growing thanks to the efforts of Associate Professor Susan Corbett.

Susan Corbett

The voice of the Asia–Pacific region on copyright issues is growing thanks to the efforts of Associate Professor Susan Corbett and her colleague Dr Jessica Lai.

Associate Professor Corbett's research areas include internet and copyright law, and she is president and founder member of the Asian Pacific Copyright Association (APCA), an organisation that provides a forum for discussion and promoting maintenance and development of copyright and related rights in the Asia–Pacific region through legislation, dialogue, and education. Dr Lai is the general secretary and first contact point for APCA.

"Europe and America both have strong voices on copyright matters, whereas the Asia–Pacific region hasn’t had a collective voice until now," says Associate Professor Corbett. "For example, the United Nations has called for countries to preserve their digital history but we can't do it adequately because of current copyright laws."

APCA organises regular public seminars on copyright issues and, since 2015, has held an annual conference in, respectively, New Zealand (2015), Hong Kong (2016), Australia (2017), and China (2018).

Establishing APCA

Associate Professor Corbett helped establish APCA in 2011, fulfilling a long-term dream of Adrian Sterling, Visiting Professor at Queen Mary University of London and a well-known figure in the copyright field.

Professor Sterling contributed to many developments in international copyright law, but has always been concerned that treaty negotiations were dominated by the powerful European and United States representatives whilst his home country, Australia, and the Asia–Pacific region in general, had minimal input.

It currently has representation from nine countries, with members ranging from legal practitioners and academics to government officials and librarians.

Giving smaller Pacific nations a voice

In many smaller Pacific nations there are often just one or two people who deal with copyright issues, says Associate Professor Corbett.

"APCA gives these nations a voice and some assistance. We are able to advise and help with the development of copyright laws."

One of many issues in the Asia–Pacific region is orphan works—works that are protected by copyright but are unable to be used because the copyright owners can't be found, she says. This includes books, paintings, photographs, historical digital material, computer programs, and video games.

"Because the authors and creators can't be found, we can't archive and preserve them, and there's a danger of them deteriorating before the copyright expires."

Advocacy is an important part of APCA's work.

"Our power to make change will depend on how many members we can attract and finding opportunities to influence key stakeholders such as the World Intellectual Property Organization.

"We'd like to be able to make improvements to the current system—and a collective voice is obviously more powerful."