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.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Conference - Copyright Future: Copyright Freedom

On 27 and 28 May 2008, Professor Brian Fitzgerald of QUT will host a conference, in Canberra, on the history and future of copyright. I will be attending this conference, and I am very excited about it! Details are below -

This conference - Copyright Future: Copyright Freedom – will be held at Old Parliament House (OPH) in Canberra on Wednesday 27th May and Thursday 28th May 2009. The month of May in 2009 marks 40 years since the commencement of the Australian Copyright Act of 1968.

Program Chairs: Professor Brian Fitzgerald and Benedict Atkinson
QUT Law Faculty and ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation

The conference will consider the history of copyright law with special focus on the excellent work of Benedict Atkinson on the True History of Australian Copyright Law (2007). It will also chart the path of copyright law since that time and give special focus to future possibilities.

The conference will be opened by the Honourable Robert McClelland Attorney-General for the Commonwealth of Australia and our Keynote Speaker will be Professor Lawrence Lessig of Stanford University Law School.

Speakers include:

  • Professor Julie Cohen, Faculty of Law Georgetown University Washington DC
  • Professor Tom Cochrane DVC QUT
  • Maroochy Barambah, Songwoman for Turrbal People
  • Professor Adrian Sterling, Queen Mary College London
  • Dr Terry Cutler, Cutler and Co Melbourne
  • Professor Susy Frankel, Faculty of Law Victoria University of Wellington NZ
  • Professor Anne Fitzgerald, Faculty of Law QUT
  • Dr Prodromous Tsiavos, London School of Economics London
  • Professor Phillip Graham, Director of iCi QUT

For further information on this conference please contact Professor Brian Fitzgerald
at QUT via email:

Part of the conference will be held in the House of Representatives Chamber in Old Parliament House. As we are restricted as to the number of people that can be present in the House of Representatives Chamber the conference audience will be limited to 100 people.

QUT free public lectures in May

Professor Julie Cohen - Copyright and Creativity

In March, I posted notice of a free public lecture by Professor Julie Cohen of Georgetown University and Visiting Professor at Harvard Law School 2009. Professor Cohen will be speaking on Copyright and Creativity. The lecture will be held on Monday 25 May 2009 from 5:00pm-6:30pm in the Gibson Room (Room Z1064), Level 10, Z Block of QUT's Gardenspoint Campus. See my earlier post for more details. RSVPs were offficially required by 30 April 2009, but late RSVPs will be accepted if you are interested in attending.

Professor Lawrence Lessig - Change Congress and Regulatory Transparency: CHANGE v2: What changes will Obama need?

On Friday 29 May 2009, Professor Lawrence Lessig will give a free public lecture in the Banco Court, Law Courts Complex, 304 George Street, Brisbane. The lecture will be chaired by Justice Douglas of the Supreme Court of Queensland.

Lawrence Lessig is a Professor of Law at Stanford Law School and founder of the School's Center for Internet and Society. Prior to joining the Stanford faculty, he was the Berkman Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and a Professor at the University of Chicago. He clerked for Judge Richard Posner on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals and Justice Antonin Scalia on the United States Supreme Court. Professor Lessig's career has focused on law and technology, especially as it affects copyright. He was one of the founding members of Creative Commons. Professor Lessig teaches and writes in the areas of constitutional law, contracts, and the law of cyberspace.

In this public lecture, Professor Lessig will talk about the project he (and others) launched in 2008 called Change Congress. Its purpose is to persuade members of congress to rely for funding on citizens' contributions rather than big donations from special interests. The organisation considers that funding by corporate special interests has caused members of congress to favour these interests, undermining the integrity of the legislative process and resulting in legislation that may harm the public interest. Change Congress V1 proposed a multi-tiered program to achieve reform. It planned to enlist the support of house representatives, encourage citizen contribution pledges, garner suppoer for sympathetic politicians, and track the relationship between representatives and lobbyists. V2, announced on 9 January 2009, has simplified this program by encouraging private donors to pledge to withhold donations from congress members who won't opt-in to the Change Congress system. V2 aims to abolish the culture of big private donations and free legislators from the grip of special interests. The aims of Change Congress are consistent with Barack Obama's goal to achieve a transparent political culture that restores public trust. Its success may be critical to Obama's hopes for enlisting congressional support for ambitious reforms to solve domestic and political crisis.

The free public lecture will be held on Friday 29 May 2009, in the Banco Court, Brisbane. There will be refreshments from 5:30pm, with the lecture commencing at 6pm and concluding at 7pm. Please register by 22 May 2009 to Registered attendees may claim 1 CPD point for the Qld Bar Association and Qld Law Society. The program is available here [PDF].