August 2006

The New York Times has prevented access from the UK to an article detailing intelligence on recent terrorism concerns in the UK. The article in question, “Details Emerge in British Terror Case” (published 27 August), contained details that may have run afoul of the requirement under UK law that prohibits the pre-trial publication of “prejudicial information” about defendants. The New York Times used technology designed to deliver targeted advertising to users to prevent anyone using a computer located in the UK from downloading the article. The article quotes Jonathan Zittrain (of the Berkman Center at Harvard Law School and the Oxford Internet Institute) in saying that the paper’s action is consistent with trends on the Internet to restrict information.

It is thought to be the first time that the paper has withheld access to an article to avoid contravening laws in the UK.

The New Yorker has published another interesting article on the old media-new media debate. The last such article that I posted on looked at Wikipedia versus traditional encyclopedias and research; this article (published in the 7 August print edition) is on traditional versus Internet journalism (also known as “citizen” journalism).

Although the whole article is worth a read, Lemann’s parting thought is pretty interesting on its own:

Journalism is not in a period of maximal self-confidence right now, and the Internet’s cheerleaders are practically laboratory specimens of maximal self-confidence. They have got the rhetorical upper hand; traditional journalists answering their challenges often sound either clueless or cowed and apologetic. As of now, though, there is not much relation between claims for the possibilities inherent in journalist-free journalism and what the people engaged in that pursuit are actually producing. As journalism moves to the Internet, the main project ought to be moving reporters there, not stripping them away.


In March, it was news that Google had acquired a neat web startup called Upstartfile, which was creating a site called Writely. New registrations were closed.

Today, Google quietly re-opened Writely to the general public, who can once again sign up.

I’ve just had a quick look at the new service. In fact, I’m using it to write this blog post. As for impressions? Well, in a word: (more…)

Recently, there has been a considerable amount of attention given to this announcement by Piratpartiet (the Pirate Party of Sweden), which says it has:

launched a new Internet service that lets anybody send and receive files and information over the Internet without fear of being monitored or logged. In technical terms, such a network is called a “darknet”.

The promise seems to be that people can send or receive copyrighted files without breaching copyright.

On the technical side, this looks to be a neat piece of coding. However, on the legal side, sadly for the Piratpartiet, I don’t think it will do what they think, for two reasons. (more…)

For those of you in the United States that read The New Yorker, this is old news, but for those of you who do not, you might be interested to read a very interesting article in the 31 July issue on Wikipedia. The article, which is very well-written, has generated some interesting commentary at Freedom to Tinker on the difference between Wikipedia’s open, peer-reviewed model and The New Yorker‘s more traditional fact-checking approach (typical of high-quality print media).

I’d be interested to hear what readers think is more reliable — the Wikipedia approach or fact-checking? Both models certainly have their virtues and their weaknesses. (My own view: while some sources of information tend to be more reliable than others, any single person–or even a group of people–holds biases and can make mistakes.)

I was in Canberra this week, not just to speak to the ACT Society for Technology and Law (about P2P stuff), but also to talk at an ADA forum on the forthcoming OzDMCA (our new anti-circumvention laws).

Two things I learned at the forum. (more…)

Yesterday, I gave a talk in Canberra for the ACT Society for Technology and the Law (thanks for the invite, guys) about P2P file-sharing and liability for copyright infringement. One of the things I mentioned in that talk was the LimeWire suit, and one of the questions I got was about how our law of authorisation of copyright infringement mapped against US law. For people wondering about that question, one very good source is the paper by Jane Ginsburg and Sam Ricketson, Inducers and Authorisers: A Comparison of the US Supreme Court’s Grokster Decision and the Australian Federal Court’s KaZaa Ruling.

But it’s also worth looking at this post by William Patry, and the associated papers: the filing in the RIAA v LimeWire case, in which the RIAA are pleading each different form of liability that arises under the US law. (more…)

I have been asked by a reader about DVDs: specifically, I’ve been asked about whether users infringe copyright when they watch a DVD bought outside Australia. As my reader noted, the issue might be important because the argument about region coding – and in particular, the argument that new laws shouldn’t enforce region coding – depends on the view that playing material made for, and purchased in other geographical regions is a legitimate activity.

Now, it would be very ironic if there were any infringement here. After all, it is the government which has made comments that copyright law should not ‘stop people from doing legitimate things with legitimate copyright material’, and that ‘copyright law should not unduly intrude into the private sphere’.

However this, dear readers, is what is technically known as a nasty difficult question. No, really. That is because answering it requires us to delve into all kinds of complicated, interconnecting parts of the Australian Copyright Act; it also requires us to think about some of the recent caselaw. More detailed, painful legal analysis over the fold. (more…)

IPRIA has just published its most recent Australian Developments Bulletin (the email has come out, the website doesn’t appear to reflect this yet, but will go up here). Reading through it, one thing that jumps out is the number of reviews going on at the moment (and here’s me thinking that we’d had enough in the last little while….). So amongst the announced reviews are:

  1. The AIC intellectual property crime and enforcement research: which I’ve already mentioned on this blog;
  2. an ACIP review of post-grant patent enforcement strategies; in which ACIP expects to circulate an Issues Paper in late September 2006 with a request for written submissions in early December 2006. ACIP also expects to hold consultations in early 2007; and
  3. an ACIP review of enforcement of plant breeders’ rights, in which ACIP expects to circulate an Issues Paper in early October 2006 with a request for written submissions in early December 2006. ACIP also expects to hold consultations in early 2007.

Is anyone else detecting a theme? (oh, and if you are wondering where poor old trade mark is in all of this, we had that review, relatively recently, by ACIP, although the final report wasn’t, in the end, all that much about enforcement. See here).

This is an interesting story, from Larry Thompson, the Engineering Librarian at Virginia Tech, regarding DRM restrictions on SAE Digital Library, apparently a set of technical papers used by engineers – and engineering academics and students.

The DRM which SAE is proposing will apparently allow digital access only while a computer is connected online: it will not be possible to save copies to computers – if you want ongoing access, you have to print. How very 20th century. According to Larry Thompson, Virginia Tech is now considering what to do: as he puts it,

‘Do we want to spend thousands of dollars on digital format papers that users can’t save to their computers? The professor who wants to read an SAE paper while jetting to Europe for a conference will need to print out the paper … If one publisher does this, it may not be too bad. But what if every publisher adopts this policy, and the professor wants to take 50 papers to read during the flights? Do we want to pay roughly double the cost for a corporate license, in order to legally cover the walk-ins who might use the product, because as a land-grant university our library computers are open to the public?’

Read more here.

As we await the implementation of the OzDMCA, it’s been interesting to follow the debates, over in Europe and elsewhere, about Apple’s iTunes/iPod link. The basic issue here is that iTunes-purchased music can only be played on Apple iPod players – unless, of course, you hack the Apple FairPlay encryption (which can be done using various well-known methods).

The issue, of course, is that if someone buys a whole bunch of iPod music, then you get lock in – they’ll be more reluctant to move to another player. The technological protection, in other words, might serve to raise barriers to entry in the music player market. It’s attracted a bunch of attention recently. Here’s the brief summary:

  1. A few people got very excited when Microsoft announced it would be coming out with a new player/music service, so far named Zune, and that, to get out of this lock-in system, Microsoft would be looking to replace, for new users, any music they’d bought on iTunes. Have a look at the debate over on Freedom-to-Tinker (Post 1 and Post 2);
  2. In France, we had the DADVSI law – originally seen as potentially ‘forcing’ FairPlay open, the final form of the law has, according to reports, seen the provisions on interoperability eviscerated (see the Wikipedia entry on DADVSI here)
  3. Now, in Scandinavia, we have news today that Apple Computer Inc. met a Tuesday deadline with a 50 page response to Scandinavian regulatory claims that Apple is violating their laws by making its market-leading iPod the only compatible portable player for iTunes downloads. So far, the response is confidential.

What’s that phrase? Stay tuned? And perhaps watch for what the effect of any Australian law will be on all this…

A friend has just reminded me that today is the last day you can vote for your favourite Australian trade mark, here, to celebrate the centenary of the first registered trade mark in Australia.


Today’s funny moment is from The Australian, which is carrying a story that French cosmetic company L’Oreal has won a copyright suit against a Dutch company for copying a perfume. The story appears to have originated in The Times, but does not as yet appear to have been widely syndicated. The bizarre thing, of course, is how such a claim could be brought in copyright. (more…)