November 2007

The Greens have offered their support to the games industry in Australia to secure the same tax offsets currently enjoyed by the film industry.

Screenplay blog in The Age quotes Senator Christine Milne from the Greens who met with GDAA president Tom Crago:

“Given the tremendous popularity of interactive computer games, Australia’s games developers would doubtless receive the same community support if only Australians knew how successful they are becoming on the world stage,” she says.

“The interactive games development industry is an excellent example of an innovative, smart industry that Australia should be encouraging, while moving away from the old economic paradigm of ‘dig it up, cut it down and ship it overseas’.


The Intellectual Property Strategic Program of 2007 (PDF version here) has as one of its many goals, to reach a conclusion on whether to extend the term of copyright protection from 50 years to 70 years by the end of the fiscal year (March 31).

Yet the working group convened under the Ministry of Education, Culture, Science, and Technology is split in whether to recommend the extension or not, according to Daily Yomiuri article by Yoshikazu Suzuki.

It is no wonder that members are split, with the panel being made up of rights holding organisations such as JASRAC and the Japan Writers Association, who of course have extending the term of protection, and lawyers and economists who feel an extension would be unfair, and would not provide any further incentive for creators to generate new copyrighted works.

The following argument makes sense if we consider that people are generally ‘rational actors’. If a novelist writes a work at 30 years of age, the current term will protect her work until she is 80 years old. For artists and creatives older than 20, the chance of the copyright expiring in their living years decreases considerably with every year that passes.

Unless, of course, copyrights are left in estate to relatives, friends, or trust funds. But clearly, those who stand to benefit most from an extension of the copyright term are the rights managing organisations themselves. As we get closer to 2010, the volume of copyrighted works that continue to expire undoubtedly grows. (I have no stats on this, but have the growth in music and television programs – given that broadcasting in Japan started in 1953 – in mind)

While proponents point to the added ‘incentive’ (of posthumous revenue?), there are also economic and creative barriers that an extension potentially raises. As Suzuki writes:

An extension would [not be without drawbacks for] copyright holders. During the Oct. 12 symposium, playwright Minoru Betsuyaku and nonfiction writer Shinichi Sano said the extension would hinder writers seeking to produce new works based on the work of past authors. It also is questionable what kinds of advantages and disadvantages would accrue to people who want to enjoy copyrighted works.

It does appear a tough one, given that the IP Strategic Headquarters wants to reconcile the rights of copyright holders with the ‘multi-use’ and reuse of content by artists and users. We know which way JASRAC are always going to vote.

The Nerima-ku municipal government have launched a cable TV channel featuring animation made by studios and production companies residing in the Tokyo city.

Mainichi Daily News tells that the program, “Neritan Anime Works” will be aired on J-COM starting this month and lasting until spring next year.

Despite neighbouring Suginami-ku being better known as a location for animation studios in recent years, Nerima is [aiming to be] regarded as the ‘birthplace’ of anime, given that the first animated feature production company Toei Animation (then Toei Doga), and first animated television series producer Osamu Tezuka’s Mushi Pro are both in Nerima.

With a former Mayor who had little interest in anime and in promoting it, the current municipal assembly has adopted the campaign “Nerima, the Birthplace of Anime” (anime no furusato Nerima) for its 60th anniversary this year. This move, which reportedly has been pushed by local businesses, is visible by the flags and posters of anime when alighting at train stations throughout the city.

The delegation from the Games Developers Association of Australia (GDAA) were assured that the government, should it be returned to office at the November 24 election, would review the eligibility of games for the tax offset scheme currently provided to the film industry.

The promise was made by Senator George Brandis, Minister for Arts and Sports at a meeting with industry delegates on the 2 November. PALGN quoted GDAA CEO Greg Bondar as saying “Senator Brandis was most sympathetic to our concerns and also undertook to ensure that a review of GDAA’s call for a 40% tax rebate for the games industry in Australia would be undertaken if the Coalition was returned to government.”

The coalition government’s move to reassure the games industry comes two weeks after the industry delegation met with Labor communications shadow minister Senator Stephen Conroy, who also was ‘sympathetic’ to the games industry and promised to recommend that the GDAA get a seat at the review of the 40% tax rebate for the film industry, stating that it was time ‘to recognise the contribution of the games
industry to the Australian cultural landscape, and the conomy as a whole.’ (see press release on GDAA website)

It is fortunate for the GDAA in one sense that the upcoming election has provided the political competition necessary to generate such promises and expressions of support. Yet it also means that the issue may be given more attention (albeit pre-election) than it otherwise would have, and both political parties are being careful in the construction of their promises. Offering to recommend the association is given a seat at the table of a review of the tax rebates gives very little tangible support indeed. Post election of course, both parties are likely to give less attention to games than they are to inflationary pressures and the odd $50 billion plus of additional spending that they have promised. Even within the portfolio, expediting the roll-out of broadband is bound to be a much bigger funding issue.

Rather than go for the cultural angle, I wonder if it would have done the industry any better to approach the Department of Industry rather than Communications. AusIndustry and InvestAustralia have previously taken considerable interest in the games industry, but surely this path has been tried already.