Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Conroy's Con - the new grass-roots campaign against the Government's mandatory internet filter

On Monday 21 December 2009, I attended the Brisbane Stop Internet Censorship Public Meeting. The meeting was organised by Nicholas Perkins and had a fantastic turnout - close to 90 people! There is clearly a lot of interest around this issue.

The meeting was focused on what we can do to get the message out about Conroy's mandatory filter and the negative impacts it will have. Mainly, that the filter will NOT stop child pornography or protect children from the dangers that lurk online (including online predators and cyber bullying) but it DOES pose a serious risk of political censorship.

It was generally agreed that at present, we are losing the great internet filter battle. Conroy has used strong rhetoric that casts anyone who opposes the filter into the role of child pornographer (or at least, supporter of child pornography). Further, we are not aided by our own "geekiness" - as tech-savvy Twitteratti, we do not appeal to mainstream Australia who may not know what a "feed" is, let alone the significance of the "clean feed" proposal.

So what can we do?

The answer is a lot. But we need to do it fast, and we need to apply a lot of pressure consistently. We need to reach both the pollies and the general Australian public, and we need to turn this debate around soon or the battle is lost for good.

The Stop Internet Censorship meeting had two speakers, each of whom presented compelling options for moving forward. Each speaker took a completely different approach, but I believe that both approaches can be effective and if we apply them together, even more so.

Nicolas Suzor from Electronic Frontiers Australia spoke first and outlined the importance of keeping this debate rational. He argued that we shouldn't get sidetracked on issues of speed. The most important issues relate to censorship and control, and the fact that the RC list has a far wider ambit than child porn. Nic stated that the most effective thing we can do in terms of reaching the politicians is letter-writing. Many MPs do not really have a clear idea of what this debate is about. We should inform them and make our case. Write, write write! EFA has provided a template on their website, if you are not sure what to write.

Nic also highlighted the Great Australian Internet Blackout, an online protest that runs from 25th - 29th January, in which you can blackout your online profile picture and/or website to protest against the filter. Additionally, Michael Meloni of Somebody Think of the Children has developed a website called The Gift of Censorship, which allows you to leave a short (500 characters or less) message for Stephen Conroy. For every 1000 messages sent, Michael will send a Christmas stocking of coal to the Senator.

Finally, Australia Day is the national day of action for this debate. EFA are asking you to spread the word about what the filter really means for Australians, by bringing it up at your Australia Day Party.

The next speaker was Cameron Reilly, who spoke about the propaganda techniques that Conroy has used to swing the debate his way. Sometimes, you need to fight fire with fire, and in addition to the more reasoned approaches above, we may need to develop our own propaganda techniques. We need to bring this issue to the masses.

Andrew Bartlett suggested "Conroy's Con" as our slogan. More meetings will follow to discuss what techniques we can employ to show mainstream Australia that this filter is not what Conroy promises. Importantly, we need Mums and Dads, family groups and church groups on our side.

To find out more about the next meeting, visit

Videos of the December meeting have been posted on YouTube.
You can see Nicholas Perkins speaking here
Nic Suzor is here
Cameron Reilly is here and here
and the public debate is here, here and here

You can also see the Twitter feed from the night by searching for #sicbne

Thursday, December 10, 2009

I think my blogging is over for the day... #bbfqld

We are engaging in general discussion now in Brisbane, which probably means it is easier to follow this via Twitter, rather than me trying to follow it all.

So, I guess this is where I sign off.

Phew! It’s all over! Live blogging is exhausting – not to mention trying to keep track of the twitter feeds, the Google Wave discussions and all the other activity going on! There has been a hive of activity here in Brisbane and I can only imagine the same (or more) has occurred in Sydney.

I think the Brisbane forum has been very successful and thank you to everyone who attended, whether in person or online. I’d also like to extend thanks to the wonderful speakers on the program today, Prof Anne Fitzgerald and Paul O’Keeffe for organising the forum, Pia Waugh, Senator Kate Lundy and our friends at the main forum in Sydney, other members of our research team – Elliott Bledsoe, Jessica Coates, Cheryl Foong and Jimmy Ti – for helping with taking notes, making tweets and taking photos, and finally Patrice Meixsell-Draper and the QUT AV services and technical services teams for assisting with the venue, wireless connectivity and audio recording of today’s events.

Brisbane forum #bbfqld - Stream 5: e-Community

The final stream (Stream 5 – e-Community) was facilitated by Fee Plumley of the Australia Council for the Arts.

Fee described the Geeks in Residence program that the Australia Council is running – putting “geeks” within arts organisations to help them with their digital agenda.

The Geeks in Residence program is interested in three things:

  1. What innovation can take place around artistic programming?
  2. Audience development (marketing through digital – but this needs to be done strategically – must build community of users within the organisation) – need cultural change within the organisation – staff are taught to use networking in a productive way
  3. General operations – something often overlooked in terms of how technologies can improve productivity

Fee also made the point very well that it is important to have clear and sensible policy around use of social networking in the workplace. You must let your staff engage with and network with their communities online. Talking about their work with passion to others is just as important as the actual work. Passion spreads the message further.

Discussion then turned (very strongly) to copyright. Fee made the following arguments:

The first thing we must do, alongside the NBN, is to re-examine the copyright system. All we have currently is blockades, because the old organisations are just working to preserve old industry and old business models. This may rock the boat – but the boat needs to be rocked.

We need to get Creative Commons, APRA, MEAA, whoever, to work together – to try a number of case studies of business and copyright models with difference content and different audiences – to see what happens. Sick of hearing “it can’t be done” and closed doors – let’s do it as an experiment! If at the end, the best answer is to shut down the process and fiercely protect the copyright, then “I will shut up”. We need to let new business models develop. We must demand that even though we are small and niche (“the arts”), we have an important part within the economic system. We need knowledge investment. We must question why we accept models from the past.

Other debate –

Fee Plumley: Artists need to stop feeling bad about asking for money. The subsidising system makes artists feel like beggars.

Elliott Bledsoe: Similarly, artists need to stop expecting other people (intermediaries) to ask for money for them.

Fee Plumley: There must be a balance across the whole space. We don’t just want commercially-driven art

Brisbane Forum #bbfqld - Stream 4: e-Business

In the e-Business stream we had an overview of the Peer to Patent Australia Project from Professor Brian Fitzgerald. I'll let you see my earlier (more extensive post) for information about this project and I'd also encourage you to visit the website.

There was also some general discussion around some e-business issues, all of which were well covered via the twitter stream (#bbfqld) - so again, I will let you read the tweets there.

Brisbane Forum #bbfqld - Stream 3: Digital Education

Stream 3 was on digital education.

First up was Linda Pitt, Manager, Discovery Programs, eLearning, QLD Department of Education and Training. Linda gave an overview of The Learning Place. I encourage you to check it out – they are doing some fantastic things.

The Learning Places works on the theory that a robust digital education infrastructure involves three limbs – digital pedagogies, digital content, and e-learning spaces. It is trying to give students a ‘real-world’ experience through online networks. It is encourage use of digital spaces (such as Second Life) and tools such as blogging. It helps to have people blog their teaching and learning experiences to share with others and grow from everyone’s experiences.

Some other points made by Linda:

  • Smart Classrooms not only need bandwidth they need access to trained facilitators that can show students how to learn online (via @MichaelSmale)
  • One of the biggest problems for the learning place is low bandwidth in most QLD schools – only have a small number of schools with definite broadband – this is poor
  • We want teachers to be able connect with experts out there, and we want teachers and students and students and students to be able to connect with each other, no matter where they are.

Second up was Professor Greg Hearn, ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation (QUT), Director Creative Workforce Program.

Main points made by Greg about new broadband technologies were:

  • There is potential for a major paradigm shift in education
  • We need innovation in all three layers (technology, content, social) to have real progress in education
  • Some provocations for education –

o Is the music industry a model for the education system? Do we need new business and content models? What is the disruptive innovation that will bring about a paradigm shift in education?

o Should bots (online games) be adopted as the new primary school classroom?

o How do we harvest and accredit web 2.0 learning?

o Which is a more important budget item – the teacher or the IT infrastructure? They are roughly 50/50 at the moment – what should we spend more on?

o Who will be the gatekeeper of the virtual classrooms (that have no boundaries)

o Which physical facilities still add value in the education process?

Greg then moved on to facilitating discussion around some specific discussion points.

We focused on the two later discussion points of those provided to us by the main forum:

(2) Reality Check – what is holding us back?

  • The digital literacy of the educators (may need retraining)
  • One of the key restraints in our current education = regression in the mean i.e. we need to tailor programs to the less able students. One of the big changes that broadband can offer is bringing experts closer to students and tailoring education to the individual.
  • How will we create the right environment for teachers to be able to handle multiple students using multiple technologies, at different levels and in different regions? – it will bust apart the system – it is a challenge – but we need to create digital support networks.

(3) Next steps – what needs to be done?

  • Why don’t we de-regulate the university curriculum and let students do the individual courses they want to take?
  • Individuals will be better catered for in an open system

Brisbane Forum #bbfqld - Stream 2: e-Health

The second stream at #bbfqld was about e-Health.

The first presentation was from Alan Taylor, Director of Coeenet@qld, Radiology Informatics Program, Queensland Health.

Alan made the following points:
  • There will be a huge demand for e-Health applications, including for health records, health monitoring, video conferencing etc
  • Large investments in e-Health infrastructure will be needed.
  • There is absence of broadband competition outside the south-east corner of Queensland.
  • We need to understand the issues according to area and what are the issues for different people – health care providers, specialists, patients etc.
  • Health care needs a range of special security and privacy measures appropriate to the context of use.
  • Healthcare information needs a range of guarantees that information is available within stated timeframes
  • Health care traffic is symmetric. Asymmetric “residential” type services are not a good fit. Healthcare traffic requires “quality of service”
  • How will we know whether NBN is on track for healthcare needs? Questions to consider in assessing this – can we get competitive services throughout Queensland and can those services connect with each other? Can we get business grade services for health and government in both regional and metropolitan areas? Will the NBN services support symmetric traffic? Will there be sufficient bandwidth?

Importantly, Alan argued that we need to lobby for investment in Queensland. Funding for digital investment in regional areas absent in Queensland.

Alan also showed a video that demonstrated the different that technology makes to health in rural QLD. Crucially, it helps in making quick decisions about whether patients need transport to other facilities. It is about having up-to-date, accurate information, to make rapid, well-informed decisions. This enhances patient care.

The second speaker was David Hansen, a research scientist from CSIRO. David gave a number of thrilling examples of how CSIRO are using digital technologies in medical research – e.g. to map progression of Alzheimer’s, and many other things. I can’t really do the research justice by explaining in short-form here, but we will endeavour to make the slide set and audio recording available online soon.

General discussion report

Alan Taylor: We need the broadband, but we also need the smart people to get the right management of legal issues and proper business models to actually use the broadband and implement all the possibilities the broadband offers

Q: [Jessica Coates] How hard is training for people with digital technologies?

A: [David Hansen] – Generally you need a clinical champion to actually push the technology in the first place, but once people see the possibilities and how it all works, they generally get very excited about using it.

[Alan Taylor]: Most clinicians can see they need to do things better. Problem is knowing when they can use new technologies – will it save time and money? Will it expose them to risk of clinical malpractice?

Brisbane #bbfqld : Stream 1 - Smart Infrastructure

The first stream to be considered in the Brisbane forum was Smart Infrastructure.

Associate Professor James Hogan from QUT's Science & Technology Faculty presented first. He started with a succinct but important quote from
Microsoft: “It is not longer possible to do science without a computer”.

James spoke about some projects in his field - namely, how smart infrastructure is being used to measure environmental health. Digital instruments (similar to "smart phones") record environmental acoustics to "emulate scientific eyes and ears" in measuring environmental health. There are two such projects currently being undertaken - one to measure the sounds (and therefore the movements and health) of koalas at St Bee's Island, and another to measure the sounds of Lewins Rail (a type of bird) in the Brisbane Airport surrounds. Broadband helps to take this scientific data from the field and share it with others faster and more broadly, to have greater impact.

The second speaker in this stream was Lucy Cradduck, a lecturer in business law at the University of the Sunshine Coast and a SJD candidate in law at QUT.

Lucy made some important points about the challenges facing us in rolling out the national broadband network (NBN). These include:

  • Literacy: Access to information is about people being digitally literate – it is important that all people with capacity to access the NBN are fully digitally literate. If we do not have everyone able to understand, as well as everyone able to access, then we cannot move forward properly.

  • Physical infrastructure: New networks need to be constructed in infill (mainly urban and regional) and greenfield (mainly regional and rural). There are unique issues in greenfield sites, in particular cost and how the cables are going to be treated. Will they be treated the same as other utilities? There must be proper interoperability between old networks and new. Upgrading existing hardware and software needs to be efficient.

So what steps do we need to make in moving forward?

  • We need consistent policies across Australia on what must be provided for all not just Greenfield

  • Specific issues for rural and regional Australia must be addressed

- We cannot create an “underclass of the NBN have-nots”

  • We need to consider how to treat the cost of creating the network – who pays and when for access to the network?

[Note: I think (hope) that both James and Lucy's slides will be made available online in the next few days.]

Group discussion record

Q: What legal issues does the NBN throw up?

A: [Lucy Cradduck] One big issue is net neutrality – making sure that the NBN is open, that the content and system providers do not control what material we can have access to. Currently, Telstra controls most (if not all) of the internet exchanges. But moving forward, the NBN should be completely neutral so anyone can use it; anyone can gain access.

Q: So what are the key net neutrality issues we need to be aware of moving forward?

A: [Brian Fitzgerald] Part of the innovation of the internet means you don’t try to predetermine the uses of the internet. One of the critical issues around network neutrality is how strongly you enforce the requirement of net neutrality. And how far do we let people tinker with the internet to prevent copyright infringement or for censorship or for a range of other reasons.

Anne Fitzgerald: Law is part of the infrastructure and the interaction between law and technology is fundamental for access.

Brian Fitzgerald and others: The law could be more customised for more digital environments.

Extending broadband to rural Queensland #bbfqld #bbfuture

In light of the comments that the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, has made this morning about extending broadband services across regional Australia, and linking broadband with economic growth and equality, I would like to share a comment made on the Brisbane forum website:

Graham Storrs said:

I live in rural Queensland. When I moved here 2 years ago, I had no phone line. It took a year and a complaint to the ombusman to get a line installed – at a cost to me of thousands of dollars. There is no ADSL of course, I’m too far from an enabled exchange.

I can get wireless ‘broadband’ via Telstra’s NextG service (no other supplier covers my house – so I’m in a monopoly market here) but the signal is weak (even with an external antenna) and the bit-rate is extremely low – so low that I can’t listen to streaming audio or watch streamed video without it stuttering and pausing all the time. And it is expensive, of course, being Telstra. The best package I can afford has a 5Gb upload/download limit – not enough to use every day and still have any spare for listening to music or watching video (even if I could). So, for $80 a month, I get a very basic, very slow service, and no option to change supplier.

Oh, and forget about smartphones like the iPod. They just don’t work at such low signal strengths (although, thankfully, my Kindle does – most of the time.)

Most city-dwellers, certainly no politicians, have a clue how primitive things are out here. Whatever the ‘broadband future’ is for urban Australia, for much of rural Australia, it’s a joke.

I must admit that as a "city-dweller" I had no idea things were this bad in rural Queensland. I do believe that fast internet = better opportunities for education, connecting with others, and much, much more. I have no knowledge about the physical logistics of extending quality broadband to rural Australia, but I do hope we can do something to improve the situation.

Realising our Broadband Future - Introduction #bbfuture #bbqld

Today, I am at the Brisbane node (#bbfqld) of the Realising Our Broadband Future Forum (#bbfuture). I will be attempting to live blog the day, and add substantive points to the forum wiki throughout the day. There will be less need for me to blog this morning while, on the Brisbane program, we are simply watching the live stream from the main event. These events will be captured on video and, I'm sure, by the many attendees in Sydney. However, from 10:30am we will be facilitating our own discussions on the 5 streams (Smart Infrastructure, Digital Education, e-Community, e-Health, and e-Business) here in Brisbane, and I will be doing my best to capture those discussions. Apologies in advance if my notes are rather rough.

My colleague, Elliott Bledsoe, will be twittering the Brisbane event. You can following his Twitter feed directly, or follow the #bbqld stream.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Peer to Patent Australia launches today

Today, 9 December 2009, the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in collaboration with IP Australia launches the Peer to Patent Australia (P2P Au) project.

This project follows on from the Peer to Patent projects run recently out of the New York Law School (NYLS) and the Japanese Patent Office, and is designed to improve the patent examination process and the quality of issued patents.

P2P Au is led by Professor Brian Fitzgerald at QUT and is using Web 2.0 technology to assist patent examiners in their assessment of whether an invention is new and inventive and thereby deserving of the grant of a patent. With approximately 1 million patents being applied for across the world each year the task of examiners especially in assessing new technologies has become increasingly difficult. By harnessing the power of community experts through Web 2.0 technologies, Peer to Patent Australia aims to make the patent examination process more efficient and accurate.

Peer-to-Patent Australia will initially run as a 6-month pilot that will focus on the rapidly advancing technology areas of business methods and computer software. Up to 40 business method, computer software and related patent applications that have been filed in Australia and which are open for public inspection will each be posted on the Peer-to-Patent Australia website for a 90-day period. During that time, members of community can review those applications, submit prior art references and comment on the relevance of any prior art that has been put forward.

At the end of the review period, P2P Au will forward the top 10 prior art submissions for each application, as selected by the community of reviewers, to IP Australia for consideration in the examination process. The review process in no way abrogates the responsibility of the patent examiner to assess a patent application. Prior art submitted by P2P Au is solely designed to assist a patent examiner, who remains the arbiter of whether a patent is to be granted.

The project uses a consent based model. Patent applicants will be asked to consent to having their applications included in the pilot. There are currently 7 applicants who have consented to participate. These are IBM, Aristocrat Technologies Australia Pty Limited, General Electric Company, Hewlett-Packard, Residex Pty Ltd, Yahoo and CSIRO. Those applicants have put forward 18 patent applications for peer review. 15 of those will be made available at the launch.

For anyone who is interested in participating in the prior-art-search, sign up at

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

R18+ rating for computer games rally - notes, photos and video now online

On Saturday, I attended a rally in Brisbane in support of an R18+ rating for computer games. The rally was well organised and had a decent turn-out.

A summary of events, photos and links to video recordings of the rally are now available on the Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA) website.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Realising our Broadband Future - Brisbane consultative forum at QUT

On Thursday 10 and Friday 11 December 2009, the Australian Government Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (DBCDE) will be holding the Realising Our Broadband Future Forum in Sydney.

For anyone in Brisbane who is interested but unable to attend the main event, we are holding a Brisbane consultative forum on Thursday 10 December 2009 at QUT. This forum will include segements of the official video feed by live webcast, as well as facilitated discussion aligned with the themes of the national summit. The discussion session will be summarised and provided as feedback to the DBCDE summit.

We’re talking about our connected future. This isn’t about technology, it’s about how we can all use it – to connect communities, build businesses, improve our education and health systems, create and innovate, improve our quality of life for all.

Details -

Thursday, December 10, 2009 from 8:30 AM - 4:30 PM (GMT+1000)

QUT Gardens Point campus - D block, room 101
2 George St
Brisbane, Queensland 4000

Register online

If you’d like more information, please contact Paul O’Keeffe on 0423 358 827 or by email to paul.okeeffe[at]

You can also follow the Queensland Twitter feed through #bbfqld – and the main summit at #bbfuture.


The forum begins at 8:00am (not 8:30 as stated above). I should have also mentioned that registration is free.

Here are the updated details and program:

08.00 - 10.15 Registration and Plenary Session from Sydney (the Prime Minister's address runs from 8.05 to 8.35am Brisbane time; other speakers include Mike Quigley (NBN Co. CEO, Vint Cerf and Senator Conroy )
10.35 Stream 1 – Smart Infrastructure
11.20 Stream 2 – e-Health
12.05 Stream 3 – Digital Education
12.55 Lunch Break
13.30 Stream 4 – e-Business
14.15 Stream 5 – e-Community
15.30 Conference close

The Brisbane consultation forum will be held at Queensland University of Technology (QUT) Gardens Point campus, in D block room 101. (D block is immediately behind A block, nearest to the George Street entrance to the campus).

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

EFA calls for help on the R18+ games issue

On the Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA) website, EFA Chair Nic Suzor has made available a six page form-letter from the South Australian Attorney-General, Michael Atkinson, on the topic of the lack of an R18+ rating for games.

Nic writes:

"The letter reiterates that this is not going to be an easy fight to win. For Atkinson, the lack of an R18+ rating is clearly something that helps keep violent media away from children, and he sees no real harm in not making the same material available to adults..."

EFA is planning to put together a response to the discussion paper that analyses and addresses all of the points that Atkinson makes, as well as systematically covering the research in the field. If you are able to help, please contact Nic, join the R18+ games discussion list, or take a look at the EFA R18+ wiki space.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

IP and Tech Law Clinic - 2009 advice sessions now full

The Intellectual Property and Technology Law Clinic advice sessions for 2009 are now FULL.

We are hoping to offer further free legal advice services in 2010. Keep an eye on the website for more information.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Future of Data Policy

The Microsoft External Research Division has launched a book entitled, The Fourth Paradigm: Data-Intensive Scientific Discovery (2009) edited by Tony Hey, Stewart Tansley, and Kristin Tolle. The book was launched on the opening day of the Microsoft eScience Workshop that took place in Pittsburgh, USA from 15-17 October 2009. The book includes a chapter, 'The Future of Data Policy' (pp 201-208), authored by Professor Anne Fitzgerald, Professor Brian Fitzgerald and myself. The book is licensed under a Creative Common Attribution Share Alike 3.0 United States licence, and can be download in its entirety or by chapter at The Fourth Paradigm.

ANDS guides - copyright and data

To follow on from my copyright and data presentation post -

Professor Anne Fitzgerald and I have produced two short guides for the Australian National Data Service (ANDS): one on Copyright and Data and the other on Creative Commons and Data. The Copyright and Data guide is now available (in html and pdf formats) from the ANDS website, the Creative Commons and Data guide should (hopefully) be available next week.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Presentation: Copyright and Data

This morning I gave a presentation on Copyright and Data as part of QUT's Division of Technology, Information and Learning Support research seminars.

I have licensed my presentation under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Australia licence. It is available for download here:

Copyright and Data (.pptx) or Copyright and Data (.pdf)

Together with Professor Anne Fitzgerald, I have also authored a short guide on Copyright and Data for the Australian National Data Service (ANDS). It is available from the ANDS website.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Event: How to Win an AIMIA Award

The Australian Interactive Media Industry Association (AIMIA) is holding an event on Thursday 22 October entitled, "How to Win An AIMIA Award". The Awards have a Student/Education category. This is also a good opportunity to see examples of Australian interactive media works, how the works are judged nationally and how to create award-winning works with the principles applicable to interactive media work in general. Student-priced tickets are $30.

For more information and to register, visit the website.

Event Details:
Date: Thursday 22nd October 2009
Time: 3.30pm - 5.30pm with networking drinks afterwards
Venue: Central Eagle Street Conference Venue (in the Credit Union Australia building at 175 Eagle St)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Brisbane Creative Industries blog - new post on the IP and Tech Law Clinic

I have just made a post on the Brisbane Creative Industries Blog on the IP and Technology Law Clinic. I won't repost in full here. If you are interested, follow the link.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A win for QUT student services

Inspired by this recent post by Kate Carruthers, "Customer service and student support - QUT gets it" (and I can confirm that Kaylene Matheson in the law school is, in fact, excellent), I would like to share my own experience of being the beneficiary of exemplary service by QUT staff.

I am currently applying to universities in the US and the UK to undertake postgraduate study overseas sometime in the near future. The application process has at times seemed unnecessarily painful and complicated. The latest in my series of tiresome hurdles was to send my original academic transcript to one of the governing academic bodies in the US. But the transcript could not come directly from me - it had to come from the appropriate person at QUT who could verify the transcript, who would complete forms to that effect and send the forms and the transcript (sealed) to the relevant US address, and who would be available for follow-up if necessary. While I understood the reasoning behind these requirements, I despaired at what I would need to do to fulfil them. I had no idea who the "appropriate person" was and I was reluctant to ask a stranger to jump through the hoops on my behalf - I was, after all, just one student of thousands at QUT. I thought that at least this would take a lot of running around and probably a fair amount of time on my behalf.

I sent an email to the University Registrar, Carol Dickenson, asking for help. I figured I was probably aiming a little high up the daisy chain and Carol was probably too busy, but she seemed like the mostly likely candidate for the "appropriate person". Within only a matter of hours, my request had been passed to Sharron Caddie (Executive Officer, Office of the Registrar), Julianne Paltridge (Associate Director Client Services, Student Business Services) and Joshua Leuner in the Student Centre. I was informed that if I took the relevant forms to Josh, he would complete them for me and post them to the US institution with my academic transcript. I was also informed that QUT would waive the overseas postage fees for me. When I took my forms to Josh, he could not have been more friendly and helpful.

I was immensely impressed with the speedy response and general helpfulness of the QUT staff. They genuinely seemed willing to go out of their way to assist me. They made an otherwise troublesome and tedious process just that little bit easier.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

IP and Tech Law Clinic - the official flyers

In my last post, I announced that QUT and QPILCH are establishing the Intellectual Property and Technology Law Clinic which will, among other things, provide free legal advice to members of the creative and technology sectors with limited financial resources.

With the assistance of the remarkable Elliott Bledsoe, we have designed two flyers advertising the inaugral advice sessions to be held on 29 October 2009 and 26 November 2009. You can download the flyers here and here [.pdf].

Please feel free to display and distribute these flyers far and wide.

Monday, September 14, 2009

IP and Technology Law Clinic

QUT Law Faculty and the Queensland Public Interest Law Clearing House (QPILCH) have received a small amount of funding to pilot an IP and Technology Law Clinic for 12 months. Part of this will be a clinical (elective) offering for QUT students in second semester 2010. Another part will be a free advisory service for Queenslanders needing IP and technology law advice who cannot otherwise afford a lawyer.

The Clinic will be led by Professor Brian Fitzgerald and me. If you are an IP lawyer in Brisbane who is interested in being involved in the advisory service, or a creator/user/Queenslander in need of some free legal advice, please contact me (Kylie) on (07) 3138 6836. We will be running two advice sessions in 2009 - Thursday 29 October and Thursday 26 November. Both sessions will be held in Brisbane City from 5:30pm-7:30pm. Advice is by appointment only and you must be able to attend in person.

Here is the flyer that we distributed at Big Sound last week. The flyer is geared towards musicians (because of the venue), but the advice service will also be relevant for other creators including writers, artists and designers. Tell your friends!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Think B4 You Speak campaign

There's a new campaign afoot, and I think it's very worthwhile. It's called Think B4 You Speak, and it is targeting homophobic language, in particular the commonly-heard "that's so gay". Check it out.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Free Canberra Forum: Opening Australia's Archives

Here's the details:

The Institute for Creative Industries and Innovation, the Creative Commons Clinic and Creative Commons Australia invite you to a free workshop and discussion forum Opening Australia’s Archives

Date: 25 August 2009, 11:30am-5:00pm
Venue: National Library of Australia, King Edward Terrace, Parkes, Canberra

Digital technologies have drastically changed the landscape of creating, collecting and providing access to cultural materials. As linear models of knowledge and cultural production are supplanted by more distributed, collaborative networking models, Australia’s cultural institutions are increasingly seeking to engage with their audiences in ways that capitalise on these new capabilities. In this environment, traditional copyright management models can present a significant barrier to realising the full economic and social value of a collection. As a result, archives internationally are exploring the potential of open access distribution models.

This half-day forum aims to bring together representatives of Australia’s cultural institutions to:
  • identify the benefits and disadvantages of providing open access to cultural collections;
  • document models of access currently being used by Australia’s collecting institutions;
  • identify barriers to providing broader access to collections;
  • gauge the level of interest in a coordinated sector-wide approach to access policies and practices; and
  • develop a plan for improving government policy on access to cultural material.

It will build on discussion undertaken at a preliminary meeting held at Old Parliament House in Canberra on 24 May, 2009, and will generate practical outcomes including best practice guidelines, proposed collaborative projects and a detailed advocacy strategy.

Facilitators: Professor Brian Fitzgerald (Professor of Intellectual Property and Innovation, Queensland University of Technology), Jessica Coates (Project Manager, Creative Commons Clinic) and Professor Phil Graham (Professor of Communication and Culture, Queensland University of Technology)

RSVP: Please RSVP by 10 August to Jessica Coates at or on ph: 07 3138 8301

The forum is free to attend and lunch will be provided.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Australian Government releases Digital Economy: Future Directions paper

Last night (on 14 July 2009), the Australian Government released its Digital Economy: Future Directions paper. The paper is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivativeWorks 2.5 Australia licence.

This is a short summary (or a summary of the Government's 35-page 'Snapshot' summary of the 103-page final report) of some of the key points made in the paper (imho).

The Digital Economy: Future Directions paper explains how government, industry and the community can work together to improve digital economy engagement in Australia. It provides the rationale for government taking strategic and enabling action to ensure that all parts of Australia benefit fully from the digital economy. The paper includes case studies of Australians who have engaged successfully with the digital economy. These case studies are designed to provide an insight into the diverse range of industries that can benefit from the digital economy, including health, education, water, transport and banking.

The Australian Government has defined the digital economy to be ‘the global network of economic and social activities that are enabled by information and communications technologies, such as the internet, mobile and sensor networks.’ (Snapshot p2; Final report p2) The government has recognised that a successful digital economy is essential for Australia's economic growth and ability to maintain international standing. The government has identified its role in developing the digital economy as that of an enabler. In this role, the government is developing of digital infrastructure, facilitating innovation and setting a conducive regulatory framework.

The Digital Economy: Future Directions paper discusses the initiatives being undertaken by government to improve Australia’s digital economy, in a number of key areas. Some of these areas are as follows.

National Broadband Network (NBN)
(see Snapshot p8; Final report pp 9-11)
In recognising the importance of world-class, high-speed broadband for Australia's future economic growth and social wellbeing, the government has committed to building the National Broadband Network (NBN). The National Broadband Network will improve Australia’s network capacity and allow Australians to enjoy high-speed carrier-grade video, data and voice services. This will have significant implications for industry in terms of new services, applications and business models. To assist Australia’s research community and commercial sector to fully map the applications and business models which will thrive in Australia’s high–speed future, the government will host a National Broadband Network: Realising the Vision forum before the end of 2009.

Open Access to Public Sector Information
(see Snapshot pp 8-9; Final report pp 12-14)
In the Digital Economy: Future Directions paper, the government has recognised that open access to appropriate categories of public sector information can drive digital economy and innovation benefits. In this context, ‘open access’ means access on terms and in formats that clearly permit and enable such use and reuse by any member of the public. The Australian Government has established the Government 2.0 Taskforce to advise and assist the government in making public sector information more accessible and usable and in making government more consultative, participatory and transparent.

Conducive regulatory frameworks
(see Snapshot pp 12-13; Final report pp 20-23)
The government will consider those aspects of Australia’s regulatory framework that are most pertinent to the digital economy to identify whether reforms are necessary to promote Australia’s development as a knowledge economy. For example, the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General recently agreed to amend state and territory Electronic Transactions Acts to reflect technological advances since the laws were enacted and to allow Australia to implement the UN Convention on Electronic Communications in International Contracts.

The nature of the digital economy is such that certain regulatory frameworks presently face greater pressures than others. Two examples of such pressure relate to:
  • copyright law—the rapid emergence of new platforms for social engagement, content distribution and political communications is putting pressure on, for example, copyright laws; and
  • convergence—where devices and platforms which originally had distinct functionalities converge or overlap and, as a result, put pressure to legislative schemes that were originally designed to deal with distinct devices and platforms.
With respect to copyright law, the Australian Government will consider whether the scope of the ‘safe harbour scheme’ should be expanded to include additional types of online service providers.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Minus Canvas 3 Exhibition

Tomorrow evening I will be attending the opening of Minus Canvas 3 - an exhibition of works on paper, board and other found objects. My good friend and an amazing artist, Alex Bacskay, will be exhibiting there. All are welcome to the opening.

The event details are:

6pm, Friday 3 July 2009
Jugglers Art Space Inc, 103 Brunswick Street, Fortitude Valley QLD 4006

For more details see the Facebook Event

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Inquiry into Improving Access to Victorian Public Sector Information and Data - report released

[Cross posted from]

On Wedneday 24 June 2009, the Victorian Government released the Report of the Economic Development and Infrastructure Committee on the Inquiry into Improving Access to Victorian Public Sector Information and Data.

The Economic Development and Infrastructure Committee ('the Committee') was tasked with inquiring into, considering and reporting to the Victorian Parliament on the potential application of open content and open source licensing models, including Creative Commons, to Victorian Government Information.

The Committee made three key recommendations for access to and reuse of PSI:

1) That the Victorian Government develop an Information Management Framework for the purpose of facilitating access to and reuse of Victorian Government information by government, citizens and businessess. The default position of the Framework should be that all PSI produced by Victorian Government departments from now on be made available at no or marginal cost.

2) That the Victorian Government make use of the Creative Commons licensing model for the release of PSI. The Committee was told that Creative Commons licences can be appropriately used for up to 85% of government information and data.

3) That the Victorian Government establish an online directory where the public can search for and obtain information about PSI held by the Victorian Government. Depending on the access conditions the Government has attached to specific PSI, people will be able to download information and data directly, or make contact with people in the Victorian Government to discuss access conditions.

This is an immensely significant report, which has been noted internationally including on the ePSIplatform. In particular, the recommendation that the Victorian Government use CC licensing is very encouraging.


In summary:

Key Recommendations of the Report -

Recommendation 1: That the Victorian Government release a public statement indicating that it endorses open access as the default position for the management of its public sector information.

Recommendation 2: That the Victorian Government develop a whole-of-government Information Management Framework (IMF).

Recommendation 8: That the Victorian Government encourage as part of its funding agreements with research agencies and higher education institutions that research results be deposited in open access journals or repositories.

Recommendation 11: That the Victorian Government develop a consistent copyright licensing system for use across all government departments.

Recommendation 13: That exclusive arrangements not be entered into for licensing Victorian Government public sector information, excepting exclusive rights necessary to protect the public interest.

Recommendation 14: That the Victorian Government adopt the Creative Commons licensing model as the default licensing system for the Information Management Framework.

Recommendation 15: That the Victorian Government adopt a hybrid public sector information licensing model comprising Creative Commons and a tailored suite of licences for restricted materials.

Recommendation 16: That the Victorian Government develop specific guidelines for the pricing of public sector information (PSI), emphasising the provision of PSI at no cost or marginal cost.

Recommendation 21: That the Victorian Government require wherever possible that its information and data be stored in open standard formats.


Key Findings of the Committee -

Finding 1: Quantitative data about economic benefits arising from increased commercial exploitation of public sector information (PSI) does not currently provide clear guidance for policy. There is a growing view, however, that new commercial enterprises will emerge as access to PSI is improved.

Finding 2: Improved access to and utilisation of public sector information may result in economic benefits for the Victorian Government through greater efficiency in the allocation of resources and more informed decision-making and policy development processes.

Finding 5: There is substantial potential for spatial data held by the public sector to contribute to new commercial and public services and research. There are also significant opportunities for access to spatial data held as public sector information to be improved.

Finding 6: The proliferation and interdependence of patents can act as a barrier to innovation and the delivery of new products to the market.

Finding 7: The existence of copyright in government-owned materials does not necessarily limit the extent to which they can be made publicly available. Copyright and in particular Crown copyright may, however, limit opportunities for re-use of those materials.

Finding 8: A lack of standardised licensing practices between and within governments can act as a barrier to public sector information access.

Finding 9: The removal of copyright from Victorian Government public sector information (PSI) is unlikely to simplify access to and re-use of PSI. Access to and re-use of PSI will be best facilitated by issuing licences in accordance with existing copyright provisions.

Finding 10: Open content licences provide governments with a simple and effective mechanism to facilitate enhanced access to and re-use of copyright protected public sector information in a digital, online environment.

Finding 11: Creative Commons is a comprehensive licensing system that can be applied to both online and offline materials.

Finding 13: It is likely that Creative Commons licences can be appropriately applied to around 85 per cent of government public sector information.

Finding 14: The application of geographical restrictions to public sector information (PSI) licences will be difficult to enforce and may compromise the re-use value of government PSI.

Finding 15: Issuing attribution-only Creative Commons licences will assist to maintain the integrity of Victorian Government public sector information while ensuring access and re-use opportunities are maximised.

Finding 19: There is an emerging view that the application of no cost or marginal cost pricing to public sector information will increase access to and re-use of such information, with the potential to stimulate productivity and economic growth.

Finding 20: There is growing recognition that government should have a limited role in adding value to public sector information (PSI) for commercial purposes. The value of PSI should be enhanced through private sector activity for the creation of new products and services.

Finding 21: The provision of public sector information in open standard formats is a key component of open access.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Government 2.0 Taskforce

On Monday 22 June 2009, the new Government 2.0 Taskforce was announced. The Terms of Reference for the Taskforce are that the Taskforce will advise and assist the Australian Government to:
  • make government information more accessible and usable — to establish a pro-disclosure culture around non-sensitive public sector information;
  • make government more consultative, participatory and transparent — to maximise the extent to which government utilises the views, knowledge and resources of the general community;
  • build a culture of online innovation within Government — to ensure that government is receptive to the possibilities created by new collaborative technologies and uses them to advance its ambition to continually improve the way it operates;
  • promote collaboration across agencies with respect to online and information initiatives — to ensure that efficiencies, innovations, knowledge and enthusiasm are shared on a platform of open standards; and
  • identify and/or trial initiatives that may achieve or demonstrate how to accomplish the above objectives.
If the Taskforce follows through on its Terms of Reference, I think it will do great things. Read more on the Government 2.0 Taskforce blog. The website is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Australian licence.

My boss, Professor Brian Fitzgerald, is one of the members appointed to the Taskforce, along with Dr Nicolas Gruen, Mia Garlick and others. Brian's is an excellent appointment - he is an internationally recognised IP and technology law expert, whom I'm confident will contribute much to the Taskforce.

The Taskforce is also running a competition to design the Taskforce website's banner. All entries will be licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 2.5 Australian licence.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Copyright Future Copyright Freedom Interviews now available

Last month, I blogged about the Copyright Future Copyright Freedom conference run by Professor Brian Fitzgerald of QUT Faculty of Law and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation (CCI). I mentioned that during the course of the conference, my colleague Nic Suzor and I had the task of interviewing some of the conference delegates about how they first became involved in copyright law and what their perspectives are on the future of copyright. These interviews are now available online, thanks to Jimmy Ti who has helped us build the website around the conference recordings.

We will continue to add to the interviews on this page. As part of the Copyright Futures project, we are hoping to generate a bulk of interviews (ideally around 50) from copyright experts around the world.

The video and audio of the full presentations at the conference will also be made available online in the coming weeks.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Copyright Future: Copyright Freedom conference 2009 - central themes

Some of the central themes and key points to come out of the conference were:

[Note - these are my notes and paraphrasing, not direct quotes]
  • Australia has typically followed UK and US movements in copyright law, often to our detriment. However, in some areas we are able to make independent copyright laws without offending international law (e.g. we could advocate for compulsory licensing of material for developing countries or for a thorough explanation of the Berne 3 step test). But will we do it? - Benedict Atkinson
  • The Berne three step test may have been interpreted wrongly - the steps, "do not conflict with a normal exploitation of the work" and "do not unreasonably prejudice the legitimate interests of the rights holder", are not necessarily as broad as we think, and normal exploitation and legitimate interests do not always have to mean monetary compensation. Authors have many different interests in their work. Maybe we should think about them - Professor Susy Frankel
  • We need to get our minds around the true justification of copyright law, and the true interests of creators. These are often different to what the closed-access and permission-based model would have us think - Professor Adrian Sterling and many other conference delegates
  • Professor Adrian Sterling suggested a motto for the conference - "Easy Access; Easy Licensing"
  • The Hon. Michael Kirby amended this to "Easy Access; Justifiable Licensing"
  • We are creating a generation of criminals ("copyright pirates") in our kids, who are used to downloading things from the internet and don't see why this shouldn't be allowed - we need to find a solution that prevents our children from being "criminals". We need to do this in such a way that copyright is still respected, because otherwise we run the risk of revolution - having our children revolt against copyright law and call for its abolition - Professor Lawrence Lessig
  • In the digital environment, we need to give up our obsession with "the copy". In an online environment, everything is a copy. Therefore, under the current copyright system, nothing can be done without permission and usually the payment of a fee. This is unsatisfactory. We need to focus on meanigful use as the reason for giving rise to the operation of copyright law requiring permission and/or payment - Professor Lawrence Lessig
  • We need to consider the cultural impact of copyright law, particularly for indigenous persons - Maroochy Barambah, Ade Kukoyi and Professor Susy Frankel
  • The key to innovation is information flows, especially within government and the public sector. To enable this, we need to free up copyright in public sector materials - Dr Terry Cutler
  • We need to look for new models of copyright and revenue-generation from copyright. One such model may be a benefit-sharing model, rather than a fee-based model - Professor Brian Fitzgerald
  • We need to rethink nearly everything we know about copyright law. We need to recognise that the idea/expression dichotomy is problematic. We need to recognise that users are situated within cultural and material spaces and limits and they use creative material in many, many different ways. We should acknowledge that copyright plays a relatively small role in the creative process, and that often creativity relies on the interplay between whatever is available and familiar (mass culture) and "play" or "serendipity". Copyright serves goals that are primarily economic and which promotes predictability. This is important because it enables the production of mass culture. But the focus on economic fixity can frustrate the creative process of situated users. There needs to be logical gaps in the law to permit play, serendipity and freedom - Professor Julie Cohen
[Update: my colleague, Elliott Bledsoe, has done what I could not and blogged pretty much the entire conference. See the "Creative Commons Through the Looking Glass" blog]

Copyright Future: Copyright Freedom conference 2009 - why I am lame and did not blog

I returned last night from the Copyright Future: Copyright Freedom conference hosted in Canberra on 27-28 May 2009 [program available here]. I was hoping to live blog the conference (seeing as it was so interesting!), but unfortunately due to the historic nature of the venue (Old Parliament House) there were very few wired internet connections and no wireless connectivity. Peter Black (PeterBlackQUT) and Elliott Bledsoe (elliottbledsoe), who had their own internet connections (courtesy of some "dongles"), were tweeting during the day. You can follow their tweets at #copyrightfuture09.

I did take some notes during the day, but I have decided not to blog extensively on the individual presentations. Mainly because I feel that the fairly mediocre notes that I took do not do the presentations justice. There are some brief notes here, but nothing substantial.

QUT (which hosted the conference, convened by Professor Brian Fitzgerald), will be making the audio and video recordings of each presentation, and the relevant slide sets, available online under CC licences in the very near future (subject to presenter permission). I will post here when they are uploaded, so watch this space. The recordings are probably the best way to access the presentations for any who are interested. And I would highly recommend it, because most were brilliant.

Another reason I did not have much time to take detailed notes (excuses, excuses), was that (along with my colleague, Nic Suzor) I spent a great deal of my time running around with a low-quality mp3 recorder taking short (3-5 minute) interviews with some of the conference delegates. The interview questions centred around how each interviewee first became involved with or interested in copyright law; what they see as some of the main challenges and issues in copyright law; and what they see for the future of copyright. The interviews will also be made available online as podcasts, subject to interviewee permission. Interviewees included (among others):
Again, watch this space for notification of when the podcasts are available.