Sunday, February 14, 2010

New blog

Now that I have started my PhD, I plan (hope) to be blogging a lot more from now on. I have a shiny new blog to celebrate this occasion - the new address is: If you use RSS to subscribe to this blog, you will need to change your subscription to the new address. Thanks!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Some updates

So I have fallen a bit behind in my promised extended discussion of the iiNet case. I'm halfway through the full judgment, but have unfortunately been sidetracked with some other work-related tasks.

There has been no shortage of interesting copyright judgments in the last week. In addition to the iiNet decision, there has been the decision of Larrikin Music Publishing Pty Ltd v EMI Songs Australia Pty Limited [2010] FCA 29 (where the band Men At Work was found to have infringed Larrikin's copyright in the children's song 'Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree', by using the flute riff in their famous 'Down Under' song), and on Monday, in Telstra Corporation Limited v Phone Directories Company Pty Ltd [2010] FCA 44, a single judge of the Federal Court held that copyright does not subsist in Telstra's Yellow Pages and White Pages directories (choosing to follow IceTV rather than Desktop Marketing).

These are all important decisions, and I have every intention of getting to them (for reading and blogging in detail) as soon as I can. In the meantime, if you are interested in reading some updates and discussions, I'd recommend viewing Nic Suzor's blog on the iiNet decision (1, 2, and 3) and Warwick Rothnie's post on the Telstra decision.

EFA submission on minimum legitimacy requirements for mandatory internet filering

The Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA) submission to the Australian Government Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (DBCDE) on what measures would be needed to make mandatory online filtering legitimate, particularly from a transparency perspective, is now available online. You can view a summary or download the submission in PDF from the EFA website.

I am happy to say that I played a small role (together with Nic Suzor and Irene Graham) in putting this submission together. I hope that it will have some impact in helping to make the proposed filter (if it is indeed implemented) more transparent, and as a result, the government more accountable to the Australian people as far as internet filtering goes.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

iiNet prevails in Federal Court

Justice Cowdroy of the Federal Court today handed down his judgement in the Roadshow Films Pty Ltd v iiNet case.

The case involved a number of film studios who had sued iiNet, an internet service provider, for authorising the copyright infringement of its users. Their argument was that some of iiNet's users were infringing copyright by downloading movies and TV shows via a BitTorrent service; that iiNet knew this was going on; and that iiNet failed to do anything about it. The question for the court was whether iiNet was authorising the copyright infringement of its users by failing to take any steps to stop the infringing conduct.

In a decision that has been celebrated all over the internet this morning (especially Twitter), Justice Cowdroy held that iiNet was not authorising copyright infringement. The Justice gave three reasons his decision:
  1. the infringements occurred as a result of use of the BitTorrent system, not the internet, and iiNet did not control the BitTorrent system;
  2. iiNet did not have a relevant power to prevent the infringements occurring; and
  3. iiNet did not sanction, approve or countenance copyright infringement.

In the summary of his judgement (which I have had the good fortune of reading), Justice Cowdroy made the following important statement: "I find that the mere provision of access to the internet is not the 'means' of infringement".

The judge found that a scheme for notification, suspension and termination of customer accounts is not a relevant power to prevent copyright infringement pursuant to s 101(1A)(a) of the Copyright Act. The judge's reasons for this finding are set out in the main judgement, which I have not yet had a chance to read. I hope to do this later today and provide updated comments shortly.

Justice Cowdroy also found that iiNet did have a repeat infringer policy that was reasonably implemented and that iiNet would therefore have been entitled to take advantage of the safe harbour provisions of the Copyright Act. However, because the judge found that iiNet did not authorise infringement, iiNet did not need to rely on the safe harbours.

Nic Suzor, Associate Lecturer in the Faculty of Law at QUT and Chair of Electronic Frontiers Australia has further comments and analysis here and here.

I think this is a fantastic result and I am happy that common sense has triumphed.

The main judgement is available here. It is almost 200 pages. Happy reading!

(Updates will follow once I have read the full document myself)

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Government 2.0 Taskforce report(s)

This post is hugely late, but I've only just realised that I never actually posted notice of the Government 2.0 Taskforce final report, or the project report that I did with Professor Anne Fitzgerald for the Government 2.0 Taskforce.

So, without further ado, here are the relevant links:

The final report of the Government 2.0 Taskforce, entitled, "Engage: Getting on with Government 2.0" (December 2009) is available here. The report makes a number of important recommendations, including:

Recommendation 6: Make public sector information open, accessible and reusable

6.1 By default Public Sector Information19 (PSI) should be:

  • free
  • based on open standards
  • easily discoverable
  • understandable
  • machine-readable
  • freely reusable and transformable.

6.2 PSI should be released as early as practicable and regularly updated to ensure its currency is maintained.

6.3 Consistent with the need for free and open re-use and adaptation, PSI released should be licensed under the Creative Commons BY standard as the default...

The Government 2.0 Taskforce commissioned a number of projects to assist them with examining various areas of policy relating to their government 2.0 agenda. I assisted Professor Anne Fitzgerald with Project 4: Copyright Law and Intellectual Property. Our project report is available here. Here is the summart of the project report, as provided on the Government 2.0 Taskforce website:

Professor Anne Fitzgerald examined the broad policy rationale for copyright in relation to public sector information and found that there is a strong case to realign Commonwealth copyright policy based on the principles of open access and re-use which would facilitate complex flows of information between and within the public and private sectors. The report stated that this could be achieved without the need for significant changes to copyright legislation by repositioning crown copyright to enable rather than restrict re-use; adopting copyright management practices appropriate to the Web 2.0 environment (e.g. standardised open licenses which provide clear statements of users’ permissions); and providing clearer guidance to agencies about the use of open licenses, and the meaning of ‘publication’ in the Copyright Act.