March 2006

Is Internet filtering ever justified?

Australian Labor party leader Kim Beazley has been pushing for Internet filtering at the ISP level, to provide a “clean feed” for Australian families. The idea would be for ISPs to blacklist particular websites that are known to have pornographic content, so that children will not be exposed to objectionable content. (more…)

The New York Times has a short and sharp editorial criticising the US patent system. It’s at a very high level of generality, but it does cover some of the familiar themes for criticism: (more…)

There is a very interesting article in The New York Times about Microsoft‘s current difficulties in releasing Vista–the successor to operating system Windows XP. It’s been five years since Windows XP was released. In the same time, Apple has been much more nimble in the operating system market, releasing four new versions of its operating system. Meanwhile, Windows users wait, as their systems run slower and slower.

So what is the problem? According to this article, the problem is at least in part Microsoft’s bundling strategy come back to bite. Windows is written for a range of devices–that takes a lot of code. Moreover, the approach towards coding has created a problem as well. When Apple released OS X, the program was a radical departure from the previous operating system. Using applications written to work with OS 9 involved booting up the old operating system separately. By contrast, Microsoft has decided to ensure compatibility, in which new versions of Windows can be used with applications written for old versions. But this functionality has resulted in an operating system that is difficult and complicated to update, and often awkward to use.

Microsoft is trying to do the right thing by its users. It seems, however, that more radical innovation has served Apple better in recent years–just take a look at its share price.

A little while ago I blogged about a case – and more particularly an argument – that is currently before the Copyright Tribunal. The case concerns the fees schools should pay for digital uses of copyright material; the argument concerns whether ‘telling students to view’ a website should ever be a remunerable act. Reports of the case had elicited a fair bit of commentary overseas. My own post elicited quite a lot of email.

The case itself has gone ‘underground’ a little – no new developments to be reported at this stage. But I did want to note a letter to The Australian newspaper, written by CAL CEO Michael Fraser about the case. I can’t find the letter online, so I’ll quote some of the key parts: (more…)

Coverage today of a judgment, handed down yesterday, in the Kazaa proceedings. For those who joined us late (are there any of you?), Kazaa (P2P Software provider) has been sued for authorising infringement of copyright by users of the P2P file-sharing software. Justice Wilcox handed down judgment last year, holding they were liable for authorisation, and an appeal from that judgment was heard in early February. Judgment in the appeal is reserved. In the meantime, however, there’s proceedings going on for contempt, because the trial judge did not stay his injunction pending the appeal. That is, Kazaa was ordered, in the meantime, to take steps to stop authorising infringement. And there’s a live question as to whether they’ve done enough. The judgment raises some really interesting questions about contempt. More, much more, over the fold. (more…)

The Sydney Morning Herald is carrying a story entitled “The fine art of patent trolling”, which focusses on Forgent Networks Inc. Forgent is perhaps best known for its 2004 litigation against 31 companies, including Apple, Microsoft and Adobe, alleging infringement of a patent covering the jpeg image compression algorithm. That suit is still pending, but has so far netted a significant sum in settlement payments from some of the respondents. (more…)

Labor MP Bob McMullan is intending to introduce a private members bill when Parliament next sits (on 27 March) that would give artists royalties on the resale of their creations. (more…)

Michael Geist has a great post analysing a study just released by the CRIA. He concludes that the study contradicts a number of the usual claims made by the CRIA, with perhaps the two most interesting points being:

“even among those who download music from P2P services, the music acquired on those services account for only one-third of the music on their computers as store-bought CDs remain the single largest source of music for downloaders”


“consistent with many other studies, people who download music from P2P services frequently buy that same music. The study found that only 25% of respondents said they never bought music after listening to it as a P2P downloaded track. That obviously leaves nearly 75% as future purchasers, including 21% who have bought music ten times or more.”

So while there is definitely music piracy out there, is it as bad as has been stated?

(The appendix containing the data analysed is available here).

From GrokLaw, the District Court of Amsterdam has upheld the validity of the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Sharealike license. Adam Curry, a well-known media figure now living in Holland, posted some pictures of his family on photo-sharing site Flickr (his profile appears to be here). The photos carried a notice saying “This photo is public”, and were published under a non-commercial Creative Commons licence. A Dutch magazine reprinted four of the photos in a story on Curry and his children. (more…)

The Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit handed down an interesting judgment on when deleting files might amount to a crime. The plaintiff, IAC, had employed the defendant, Citrin, to identify properties that IAC might want to acquire. It issued him a laptop computer he was to use to record data collected in the course of his employment.

Citrin decided to go into business for himself, and he returned his laptop to IAC — with, apparently, all information on it securely deleted, such that it was irrecoverable. This, IAC suspected, included data that implicated Citrin in breach of his employment contract. IAC brought suit under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, but its suit was dismissed for failure to state a case. (more…)

This issue of “What is…?” provides a brief look at the emerging technology of datacasting, and considers some of the regulatory and legal issues that are raised by this new form of broadcasting. In Australia the ability to datacast is becoming a hot topic, not least because it is expected to be included in the upcoming media industry reforms. (more…)

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has released a report on the performance of Australian Internet services.

Understanding your internet quality of service 2004–05 examines the following issues:

1. download data rates on a major city and regional basis;
2. upload data rates on a major city and regional basis;
3. data rate variation by time of day;
4. Internet service availability;
5. domain name server (DNS) lookup times; and
6. latency (an indicator of the time delay of information to pass through a network).

ACMA found that, in general, Internet download speeds are not as fast as consumers are led to believe, with DSL and dial-up (which serve the majority of users) operating at an average of approximately 83% and 74% of advertised rates or maximum modem speeds, respectively. (more…)

Something I should have noted last week: the Adelphi Charter was launched in Australia, at an event organised by AEShareNet. To quote from the Charter website:

‘The Adelphi Charter was prepared by an International Commission of experts from the arts, creative industries, human rights, law, economics, science, R&D, technology, the public sector and education.
The Charter Office is based at the Royal Society of Arts in London which is concerned with innovation in the arts, sciences and industry.’

The Charter, which was formally launched worldwide in October 2005, is really a simple bunch of principles, that sound a lot like common sense – unless you’ve been in the IP debate for a while, in which case it sounds like a foreign language, so far is it from the ordinary parlance. In a way, the Charter advocates a return to simple, important principles in an area that far too often descends immediately to an unhealthy level of detail and qualification. You can see a ‘January 2006’ report here. (more…)

In a significant shift from its jurisprudence of the past forty years, the United States Supreme Court has rejected the presumption that a patent confers market power on the holder of that patent. In Illinois Tool Works Inc. v Independent Ink, Inc. (No. 04-1329, decided 1 March 2006), the Supreme Court concluded that since a patent does not necessarily confer market power, defendants in cases involving a tying arrangement must prove the existence of market power to bring an antitrust claim.

A possible implication of this case is that companies might be able to require customers to use the spare parts and supplies (car parts, toner cartridges etc.), designed and sold for use with their proprietary equipment, and prohibit the manufacture and sale of spare parts and supplies by third parties. (more…)

Breaking news is that Research in Motion (RIM), maker of the BlackBerry, has settled its dispute with NTP for $612.5m. This is higher than the $450m settlement reached a year ago, which was later invalidated by a judge. (more…)

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