Content Cafe


Industry Voices: Adam Suckling, Copyright Agency

by Content Café, 22 September 2021

Each month we hear from industry insiders in Australia and abroad to get their take on content piracy. Is content protection improving? How do we stop piracy? How does Australia compare to the rest of the world? These are some of the questions we'll be exploring with leaders across the content industry.

Adam Suckling, CEO, Copyright Agency

Adam Suckling is CEO of Copyright Agency. Prior to this he worked in senior leadership, commercial, regulatory and corporate affairs roles at News Corp, Foxtel, and Optus.

Who are you and what is your role in the creative industry eco-system?  

I’m Adam Suckling, CEO of the Copyright Agency. Its role, at its simplest, is to stick up for Australian writers, publishers and visual artists who make up our 37,000 members.

We do this by licensing copyright content to schools, universities, and businesses on fair terms. They pay for this use and we distribute the money—over $100 million a year—to creators.

What does that mean for creators and users?

It means respect for creators. Income. Jobs. Investment. And for users, it means easy access to high-quality content at reasonable rates.

What are some of the current big threats to literary copyright? 

The right policy settings are critical. The Copyright Act sets a framework that supports investment and jobs, the creation of high-quality content for consumers and payment to creators.

Generally, it is working. There is more music, films, television, and books available to more people, at lower prices than at any point in the history of the world. It’s stunning.

Where there are proposals for policy change, the challenge for policy makers is to get the balance right between supporting production, consumption and access to content.

Frankly, some of the proposals that float into Canberra are just about reducing licence fees and rightsholders need to work hard with Government to best ensure the right balance is struck.

We work on these policy matters in a very unified and respectful way with the Motion Picture Association as well as music, television, author, journalist and publisher groups.

Does piracy affect your business or that of your stakeholders?  How? 

Generally, things seem much better on this front than when I worked at Foxtel 9 years ago. 

I know it’s still a problem, but the great work the industry has done through organisations like Creative Content Australia, product and pricing innovation and legislation have all helped. 

There is more music, films, television, and books available to more people, at lower prices than at any point in the history of the world.  It’s just stunning, right. 

As to Copyright Agency, we were born in response to the need for teachers, for instance, to copy material without breaching copyright for what is today 3.8 million students. 

Our licence is great because it allows teachers, who are so dedicated and concerned to do the right thing by copyright producers, to copy a vast range of material to assist in teaching. 

That all said piracy is a problem in publishing. I often have writers or publishers distressed to find that whole books of theirs have ended up on a web site and are freely available to everyone. 

Piracy means authors, artists and publishers feel robbed — because they have been. Piracy reduces their income. It disrespects them. It undermines business models.  

What are you watching and recommending to friends at the moment? 

Ted Lasso because it’s so positive and uplifting, and deeper than you may at first think. The Wire because it is some of the best television ever made, and in honour of Michael K. Williams. Fisk because it’s funny and seeing RocKwiz-queen Julia Zemiro as a daggy, disbarred solicitor is superb. Mr In-Between because of its deadpan humour, dramatic tension and the amazing performance of Scott Ryan as hitman Ray Shoesmith. White Lotus – a ‘whodunnit’ set in lavish hotel in Hawaii, a smart look at social themes of our time with good pace and plotting. But you do have to be up for enduring the ‘front-of-the-plane’ guests who are almost all awful company. And Call My Agent – perfect lockdown viewing: smart, great characters, French movie stars and Paris! The doco about the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, Inside The Met, is great viewing, given everyone is travel-starved. And finally, Hacks, about two female comedians, is really fantastic.

Given my current role, I’ve got to mention some writers:

Trent Dalton’s Boy Swallows Universe because it’s a riveting story with stunning televisual language and images, so it’s not surprising it has just been turned into a play by the Queensland Theatre Company and a television series is in the works. Melissa Lucashenko’s Too Much Lip because, wow, she can write and tell a tale. Her characters and dialogue are compelling and believable and she confronts the dark sides of our history. Patrick Radden Keefe’s Say Nothing is an incredible piece of investigative reporting on a woman, Jean McConville, the IRA ‘disappeared’ in the 1970s. In the same territory, Anna Burns’ Milkman, is some of the most amazing writing I have read. And for love, life and much more, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah. I am looking forward to reading Miles Franklin award-winner Amanda Lohrey’s The Labyrinth. The Copyright Agency part-sponsors ‘The Miles’.

Oh! Michael Lewis latest book The Premonition on America’s response, and non-response, to the pandemic. Lewis is ‘next level’, as is this book.

Before you go, check out last month’s interviews with Liz Bales, Chief Executive of The Industry Trust for IP Awareness and Scott Lorson, CEO of Fetch TV