July 2007

The much anticipated judgment in the C7 matter has been handed down today…it’s a wopping 1230 pages/7MB. Get it here. In a very small nutshell, Channel 7 did not prove its pleaded case and was thus unsuccessful. The issue of costs is still to be worked out. His Honour Justice Sackville estimates costs in excess of $200million. The obiter on ‘mega-litigation’ will be especially useful to the readers of this blog who teach litigation and legal professional ethics.

Here’s the latest from Cth AG Phillip Ruddock in respect of the agreement he was trying to broker with the States on the “Material Advocating Terrorism” terrorism changes to the classification regulatory regime. Only NSW and SA agreed to support the changes. As the AG makes clear in the press release set out below, he intends to press ahead with Classification Amendment (Terrorist Material) Bill 2007 despite the lack of agreement at the meeting of the Standing Committee of Attorneys General in Hobart today.

The ‘war on terror’ has created the conditions for a new era of content regulation in the form of censorship of film and literature, broadcasting content standards and restrictions on the media in respect of national security matters. This week David Marr commented on the Attorney-General’s recent daubing (sorry I am sticking with the “unifinished canvas” metaphor) – the Material that Advocates Terrorism Discussion Paper released in May 2007 and the upcoming meeting with the States in Hobart at the end of this week. The Discussion Paper attracted many submissions from a diverse group of interested parties. See the submissions. The comments of Maureen Shelley from the Office of Film and Literature Classification Board echo the sentiments in many of the submissions made to the Attorney-General on the terrorism materials paper – that the new regulatory framework is “a significant departure from current practice”. The thrust of many of the submissions and the gist of Marr’s piece is that the changes sought by the A-G will have far reaching, potentially absurd, possibly discriminatory, unintended negative effects on the creation of and access to a broad range of films and literature which “might” fall within the new classification category. Led Zepplin comes to mind “oohh…it makes me wonder”…

There have been a couple of interesting developments in social networking land lately. One demonstrates the value that these networks represent. The other highlights some complicated issues about risks associated with using social networking tools, as well as possible privacy and more general regulatory concerns. (more…)

And here’s a new danger from posting information on Facebook–your university might use the information to fine you for breaking the rules.

Oxford University has reportedly used photographs of students on the popular social networking website Facebook who they say have broken the University’s rules regarding conduct after examinations to charge fines. The conduct? Being sprayed by shaving cream, covered by flour and silly string, and similar offences. (more…)

The New York Times carried a story about a lawsuit filed by restaurant owner Rebecca Charles, proprietor of the Pearl Oyster Bar in New York’s West Village. The article mentions that she has sued Ed McFarland, owner of Ed’s Oyster Bar, she considers to be a “knockoff” of her own. McFarland was her former sous chef for six years. [And yes, apologies for the pun in the title.] (more…)

In my last post I referred to the Electronic Frontiers Foundation rather than Electronic Frontiers Australia, Inc (EFA). Electronic Frontiers Australia made the submission to the Senate Committee reviewing the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment Bill 2007. My sincere apologies for any confusion caused – it was a typo on my part.

Following on from Kim’s last post, if there was ever a time when national security and anti- terrorism legislation wasn’t a tech-law issue, that time has passed. The Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment Bill 2007 is currently before a Senate Committee. There are 26 submissions . The industry will have to get its head around the new framework. National Security is now a tech law issue and I think it is going to get complicated.

[Update: I found this op-ed by Julian Burnside pretty compelling.]

The way that the imprisonment, interrogation, bail release then immigration detention of Dr Haneef is playing out is really making me feel physically ill, and deeply ashamed of my country. And while this is a tech law blog, and I’m not a terrorism or criminal law or immigration expert, I just feel like I need to put my 2c out there, if only for the sake of my own sanity.

Over the fold, I’ve commented on four aspects of these developments that have shocked me to the core: the fact that the legislation seems to allow for unlimited periods of detention without charge; the breadth of the terrorism provisions, the territorial reach of Australian law in this area, and finally, the complete disregard of the rule of law displayed by government ministers, in particular, Kevin Andrews. The whole thing makes me wish I were citizen of a country whose government actually thought civil liberties, democracy, and the rule of law were important.

Australia’s competition regulator, the ACCC, is taking Google to court, alleging that the search engine company has engaged in “misleading and deceptive conduct in relation to sponsored links that appeared on the Google website”, in contravention of section 52 of the Trade Practices Act 1974 (Cth).

Section 52(1) provides that a “corporation shall not, in trade or commerce, engage in conduct that is misleading or deceptive or is likely to mislead or deceive.”

The ACCC has alleged that Google has engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct in breach of section 52 by:

–in 2005, providing sponsored links to online classified advertisement provider Trading Post‘s website, in the guise of hypertext links to two of Trading Post’s competitors (but associating the text with the Trading Post’s URL); and
–on a continuing basis, “failing to adequately distinguish sponsored links from “organic” search results”.

The ACCC has also alleged that Trading Post contravened sections 52 and 53(d) of the Act in 2005 when the names of their business competitors (car dealerships) appeared in the title of Google sponsored links to Trading Post’s website. (Section 53(d) prohibits a corporation from representing that it “has a sponsorship, approval or affiliation it does not have”.) (more…)

Can’t happen quick enough in my view.