Tuesday, July 29, 2008

New article on the role of parody in Australian copyright law

Nic Suzor, PhD candidate at QUT, has a new article in the Media & Arts Law Review that is worth a look.

Citation is: Nicolas Suzor, 'Where the bloody hell does parody fit in Australian copyright law?' (2008) 13(2) MALR 218.

The title of the article refers to this spoof of the Australian Tourism's 'where the bloody hell are you?' advertisement.

Here is the abstract:

This article examines the role of the recently introduced fair dealing exception for the purposes of parody and satire in Australian copyright law. Parody and satire, while central to Australian expression, pose a substantial challenge for copyright policy. The law is asked to strike a delicate balance between an author’s right to exploit their work, the interests of the public in stimulating free speech and critical discussion, the rights of artists who rely on existing material in creating their own expression, and the rights of all artists in their reputation and the integrity of their works. This article highlights the difficulty parodists and satirists have historically faced in Australia and examines the potential of the new fair dealing exceptions to relieve this difficulty. This article concludes that the new exceptions have the potential, if read broadly, not only to bridge the gap between humorous and non-humorous criticism, but also to allow for the use of copyright material to critique figures other than the copyright owner or author, extending to society generally. This article will argue that the new exceptions should be read broadly to further this important policy goal while also being limited in their application so as to prevent mere substitutable uses of copyright material. To achieve these twin goals, I suggest that the primary indication of fairness of an unlicensed parody should be whether or not it adds significant new expression so as not to be substitutable for the original work.

You can access the article here. It is available under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike (BY-SA) 2.5 Australian licence. See also Nic's blog at www.nic.suzor.com

Friday, July 25, 2008

IP enforcement taken too far?

Today, one of Wired's top stories is “Senate Introduces IP-Reform Bill Bolstering Enforcement”. The abstract in my RSS feeds caught my attention: “Legislation bolstering intellectual property enforcement by increasing penalties, expanding the power of the attorney general and creating a new FBI piracy unit was proposed Thursday in the Senate.”

An FBI Piracy Unit???

Isn't that a little extreme? I think that the US Justice Department has forgotten that at the end of the day, “piracy” is just copying a song or moving visual image. That's all. What's more, it is traditionally a civil action between two parties – the copyright owner on the one hand and the alleged infringer on the other. The community-at-large is generally not harmed. I think it's time the Justice Department stop doing the entertainment industries' legal work for them.

The article quotes Gigi Sohn, President of Public Knowledge and a communications attorney, who said, "This bill would turn the Justice Department into an arm of the legal departments of the entertainment companies by authorizing DOJ to file civil lawsuits for infringement, forcing taxpayers to foot the bill."

Read the full story here.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Book Review: Tech girls are chic! (not just geek!)

At the CCI conference I was fortunate enough to meet Jenine Beekhuyzen, IT consultant and PhD candidate at Griffith University, who together with Rebecca Dorries has compiled and edited the book, Tech girls are chic! (not just geek!). The book was inspired by Beekhuyzen and Dorries's experiences in the IT industry, which even in this day and age remains dominated by males, and is an effort to get girls aged 12-16 interested in careers in IT.

From the Tech girls are chic! website:

Tech girls are chic, not just geek is a fun new book showing that it takes all types of people to work in Information Technology (IT). Our 16 'tech girls' are women working in a range of technology jobs across Australia. They are a bunch of fun and funky women who find working with technology challenging and interesting, and they are far from fitting the stereotypical 'geek' image portrayed by the media. They use their technical and/or non-technical skills (usually a combination of both) to have a successful career in IT.

So who wouldn't want to work with technology? There are heaps of jobs all over the world, travel to exotic locations, interesting and challenging work, and you often don't have to work in a boring office. Sounds like a great career? We think so! So why do so few people (especially girls) choose this type of career? That's a great question. Researchers have been trying to uncover this mystery for many years, and conclude that the industry has a serious image problem. The stereotype is that working with technology is boring, and that you have to be nerdy and spend all day in front of a computer alone. This is not what Information Technology (IT) is all about. Once you see the book you will see why! You can see a bunch of fabulous gals who work with technology every day; and they love it...

Jenine was kind enough to give me a free copy of the book. It is small, pink and oh so pretty (perfect for the target audience). It profiles 16 women in the IT industry, and each woman has section in the book consisting of:
  1. a profile page containing a small paragraph written about themselves, a colour photo and other quirky designs;
  2. a “question and answer” type page covering a variety of topics ranging from 'what is your job' to 'what is your favourite girly movie' and 'what handbags and shoes do you own' (clearly to demonstrate the feminine “chic not geek” side to the women); and
  3. interestingly, a short (2 page) fiction piece, written by each woman, presumably drawing on her own life experiences. I especially enjoyed, “Toto, I've a Feeling We're Not in Kansas Anymore” by Julie Kilner, about male/female stereotypes in IT (it rather comically considers the "World of Warcraft" IT boy stereotype).

The book is clearly written to a target audience of young girls, but notwithstanding I had fun reading this text. It is light but informative, and scattered throughout the book (amongst the stories and pictures) are advertisements for IT degrees at universities, links to helpful websites and “what do I do next?” guidance. I think that young girls interested in IT would find this book helpful and accessible.

The book can be ordered online by contacting the authors via the Tech girls are chic! website. Sponsorship has been raised to allow the authors to distribute the book free to secondary school girls across Australia.

(Side note: the website is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivatives (BY-NC-ND) licence).

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Notable presentations at the CCI Conference

Graham Vickery
from the OECD presented on the Participative Web.

He described the participative web in the following terms -

New web services, readily available software and high speed broadband enable:
  • development and customisation of content
  • commercial and non-commercial use of the “collective intelligence” of internet users
  • users contribute to developing, rating, collaborating and distributing Internet content and interacting with other
He spoke about the new business models that are emerging in response to the participative web. He identified five basic business models:
  1. voluntary contributions/giving away
  2. charging viewers for user created content (UCC) services – pay per item or subscriptions (including bundling)
  3. advertising-based
  4. licensing to third parties
  5. selling other goods and services online
The question for the future (and the present!) will be: how do we remunerate creators? By revenue sharing or content payment or...?

Jessica Coates from Creative Commons Australia (Ccau) spoke about issues surrounding how “commercial” and “non commercial” are defined in relation to Creative Commons licences.

Oli Wilson from the New Zealand band, Knives at Noon gave an enlightening presentation about how his band used Creative Commons licences to distribute their music and gain notoriety. You can read more about this or view a video of Knives at Noon speaking about their use of Creative Commons on NZ TV here.

Professor Brian Fitzgerald from QUT Law Faculty gave a comprehensive overview of the many legal issues still inherent in the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) and areas of copyright law that are sorely in need of consideration, including:
  • authorisation of copyright infringement by ISPs etc;
  • wider exceptions to copyright infringement, include for transformative use;
  • the application of fair dealing exceptions to the online environment;
  • orphan works;
  • the overlap of copyright law with other areas of the law, such as designs;
  • TPMs, circumvention devices and region-locking;
  • [And a bunch of others which I wrote down and then lost, and I can't for the life of me remember now. ..If I do, I will amend this post].
[Any or all of these topics would be excellent for a Masters or PhD thesis].

Professor Fitzgerald suggested four fundamental reforms that would go a long way to making Australia a leader in copyright and innovation policy, being the introduction of clear rights to:
  • reuse copyright material for non-commercial purposes in circumstances where there is no financial detriment to the copyright owner;
  • engage in transformative and fair uses, including the right to communicate derivative works;
  • reuse Crown copyright material for non-commercial purposes; and
  • undertake format shifting in consistent circumstances for all copyright materials.

Nic Suzor from QUT Law Faculty had a very interesting presentation about the enforceability of EULAs and Terms of Use purporting to regulate virtual communities. Nic has written extensively about this topic on his blog.

Professor Christoph Antons, a Professor of Compartive Law and Director of the Centre for Comparative Law and Development Studies in Asia and the Pacific (CLDSAP) spoke about the internet and freedom of expression in Asia. His talk focused on a number of cases involving YouTube in countries including Thailand, India, Turkey, Pakistan and Indonesia. In these countries, it can be a crime to insult the King, the State, the national religion, or other traditional figures or leaders. As Professor Antons explains, videos screened over YouTube can be potentially more powerful tools for insulting than text messages, and messages conveyed via videos are immediate and reach a wider international audience. The conflict between internet tools such as YouTube and laws that forbid insulting – especially where the laws are phrased so that “insulting” is a subjective test [a huge concern!] - can be immense.

Ben Atkinson, a Research Fellow in the QUT Law Faculty and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Innovation, looked at the evolution of intellectual property law by reference to the revolutions involving real property, such as the French Revolution. Ben has just released a book entitled, The True History of Copyright: The Australian Experience 1905-2005, which can be purchased from the Sydney University Press website here.

Monday, July 14, 2008

CCI Conference: Overview

I thoroughly enjoyed the CCI conference. I thought it was well done and involved many incredible people from a wide range of disciplines, including law, journalism, creative industries (creative writing and literature, music, and the arts), education, cultural science and the humanities.

The conference structure consisted of a number of plenary sessions to the whole audience, and then a number of concurrent sessions broken down by “streams”. I was in the law stream (legal issues for social networks and creating public value) the entire time and while it was certainly very interesting, I was a little disappointed that I missed some of the sessions on citizen journalism, creative industry development agendas, broadband innovations and the creative economy, and creative capital and workforce futures that were running in the other streams. It would have been nice to mix things up a bit and truly have everyone intermingling.

The conference kicked off with a plenary from Baroness Susan Greenfield CBE, a renowned neuroscientist from the UK. The Baroness spoke about the impact of environment over genetic disposition and considered whether children today might hold shorter attention spans because of the influence of digital technologies such as videos and games in their lives - a theory that was somewhat provoking to the largely tech-centric crowd (particularly the educators). However, the talk set a good tone for the rest of the conference – a point made by Henry Jenkins – that all opinions could be voiced here, no matter how controversial. The conference ended with an audience feedback session which further cemented the ideals of openness that had been prevalent throughout the conference.

Overall, an excellent experience.

Remix my Lit

At both the CC Conference and the CCI Conference in June, Amy Barker and Elliott Bledsoe presented the new Creative Commons-based project, Remix my Lit.

Remix My Lit is a Brisbane based, international remixable literature project. The project aims to apply the lessons learned from music and film remixing to literature. The idea is for established writers to provide short stories under a Creative Commons licence that allows remixing, which emerging writers can then remix into new, original stories, also licensed under Creative Commons.

So far, Remix My Lit has stories available for remixing from:

  • Emily Maguire;
  • Damian McDonald; and
  • Cate Kennedy.

Remix My Lit will also be running a live literary remixing event at the Melbourne Writers' Festival in Federation Square on 30 August.

This is a great opportunity for emerging writers interested in exploring new writing techniques and new legal rights management frameworks. For more information visit the Remix My Lit website.

My Conference Presentation: CCI Conference

At the CCI Conference, Creating Value: Between Commerce and Commons, on Thursday 26th June, I presented a paper entitled, Promoting Open Access to Knowledge in a Web 2.0 World.

You can access the abstract of my paper here and my slideshow presentation here.

The subject of my paper was the new publication just released by the OAK Law Project (and authored by me), Understanding Open Access in the Academic Environment: A Guide for Authors. The guide is available on the OAK Law Project website, the OAKList website, or here.

I did take notes at both the CCI conference and the Creative Commons conference on Tuesday 24th June, which I intend to blog as soon as I have a spare moment. Things have been busy!