The notion that online platforms should not be held responsible for the infringing acts of their users is something entrenched in law in many regions, including the United States and Europe. In Australia, however, a perceived drafting error in the implementation of the Australia – US Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA) means that safe harbor provisions only apply to commercial Internet service providers. The proposed introduction of a ‘safe harbor’ provision to Australian copyright law is producing yet more conflict today, with Getty Images accusing Google of promoting piracy. The image library says providers like Google “do nothing” to detect or prevent copyright infringement and that safe harbors actually encourage them to turn a blind eye.As a result, Google, Facebook, YouTube and similar platforms face copyright uncertainty, a tenuous position also suffered by schools, universities, museums, libraries and archives.

Getty Images to throw its hat into the ring

If proposed amendments to the Copyright Act are adopted, all of the above will receive enhanced safe harbor protections and the country into be brought into compliance with AUSFTA. Instead, however, battle lines are being drawn, with technology companies on one side and heavily copyright-reliant entities on the other. Getty has been embroiled in dozens of copyright lawsuits in its history so is well aware of the difficulties its business can encounter. It’s also strongly against safe harbors that would allow companies like Google to use its images in search results, for example, without having to shoulder any liability.