Monday, March 23, 2009

Free public lecture - Professor Julie Cohen on Copyright and Creativity

On Monday 25 May 2009, QUT will host Professor Julie Cohen, Professor of Law at Georgetown University and Visiting Professor at Harvard Law School 2009.

Professor Cohen is a distinguished intellectual property and privacy law scholar, with particular focus on copyright and on the intersection of copyright and privacy rights in the networked information society. She is a co-author of Copyright in a Global Information Economy (Aspen Law & Business, 2d ed. 2006), and is a member of the Advisory Boards of the Electronic Privacy Information Center and Public Knowledge. Professor Cohen received her A.B. from Harvard University and her J.D. from the Harvard Law School, where she was a Supervising Editor of the Harvard Law Review. She is a former law clerk to Judge Stephen Reinhardt of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

On Monday 25 May 2009 from 5:00pm-6:30pm, Professor Cohen will give a free public lecture on Copyright and Creativity. The lecture will be given in the Gibson Room (Room Z1064), Level 10, Z Block of QUT's Gardenspoint Campus [map]. RSVPs are required by 30 April 2009 to Courtney or Collen via email at or phone +61 7 3138 3556.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Abuse of notice and takedown procedures

Yesterday, Slashdot reported:
"According to a PC World article, Google has submitted a brief to New Zealand about its proposed copyright law (section 92A). "In its submission, Google notes that more than half (57%) of the takedown notices it has received under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act 1998, were sent by business targeting competitors and over one third (37%) of notices were not valid copyright claims.""

I find these numbers rather alarming. If accurate, they demonstrate a serious need to reconsider the true effectiveness of notice and takedown procedures. As a mechanism, these procedures were devised as a way to manage potential and threatened copyright infringement suits. But as we have seen elsewhere in the copyright environment, the ability to make assertions of infringement can be and often is abused. Right holders have been known to make assertions of copyright infringement when users were in fact acting within their fair dealing or fair use exception rights. But I find the abuse of notice and takedown procedures even more concerning because it is not just rights holders making incorrect claims of infringment.

In Australia, s202 Copyright Act 1968 provides:
Groundless threats of legal proceedings in relation to copyright infringement
(1) Where a person, by means of circulars, advertisements or otherwise, threatens a person with an action or proceeding in respect of an infringement of copyright, then, whether the person making the threats is or is not the owner of the copyright or an exclusive licensee, a person aggrieved may bring an action against the first‑mentioned person and may obtain a declaration to the effect that the threats are unjustifiable, and an injunction against the continuance of the threats, and may recover such damages (if any) as he or she has sustained, unless the first‑mentioned person satisfies the court that the acts in respect of which the action or proceeding was threatened constituted, or, if done, would constitute, an infringement of copyright.

My question is - is this enough to protect from groundless takedown notices? I think it would depend on the language of the notice, especially since s202(2) provides: "The mere notification of the existence of a copyright does not constitute a threat of an action or proceeding within the meaning of this section." Not to mention that the procedure for actually exercising the rights granted by s202(1) is quite expensive. I think this is an issue that our courts and legislature should give serious consideration to. The purpose of copyright law is to facilitate innovation, not to stifle it.