November 2007

Melbourne University Law School Masters program has changed its subject “Fundamentals of Islamic Law” to “Principles of Islamic Law”. He He He.

Yesterday I noted that DFAT is asking for submissions on whether Australia should join negotiations on plurilateral anti-counterfeiting treaty (known at the moment as Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, although I’m not clear why – does putting ‘trade’ in it make it more attractive?).

I was talking to a couple of people yesterday about whether Australia should. Here are my initial thoughts, although they’re by no means fully formed: (more…)

If you are interested in IP you may have noticed, around the traps, references to proposals for a “plurilateral anti-counterfeiting treaty”. The proposal comes out of a small group of countries – Canada, the 27-member state European Union, Japan, Korea, Mexico, New Zealand and Switzerland.

According to an IP Watch story a couple of weeks ago,

negotiations will expand upon the enforcement standards of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and countries would be encouraged to comply with other international IPR agreements. The goal is to set a new, higher benchmark for enforcement that countries can join voluntarily.

Now, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has issued a Discussion Paper on whether Australia should join in negotiations. The discussion paper is available here. Be quick – submissions are due by 3 December. Apparently DFAT are interested in hearing people’s views on:

  1. whether Australia should be part of such negotiations;
  2. whether international standards do need to be heightened in the area, and/or whether standards in Australia need to be heightened
  3. views on the kinds of provisions that should be sought/avoided/etc.

It must be Friday. All the IP stories are sports ones.

Several sites have picked up the story that the Major Baseball League is involved in a rather Major Technology Stuff-up. As Madisonian reports:

‘Apparently fans who purchased digital downloads from MLB have discovered that MLB has changed its DRM scheme. Fans who downloaded complete games from MLB had to log in through an MLB web page to verify that the download in question was being viewed on the appropriate, licensed computer. MLB has now removed this page, making those downloads unviewable. Apparently MLB does not know when the problem will be fixed. This means that those who purchased the downloads have been denied the benefits of their bargain.’

As the US sites are reporting – under US law, the fans are stuffed. Circumventing the DRM is illegal under their Copyright Act (the DMCA). And no one can sell the fans the means to access the games, because that’s illegal too.

Aren’t you proud that Australian law isn’t so silly? Here, under the Copyright Regulations 1969, we actually have a prescribed exception that allows circumvention of an access control to get access to stuff where:

(a) the technological protection measure is not operating normally; and
(b) a replacement technological protection measure is not reasonably available.

yay Australia! oh, but that’s right. STILL no one can sell you (or even provide to you for free, personally) with the means to do so. So GEEKY Australian baseball fans are ok. That must be a large group.

Oh, hang on, no. Geeky Australian baseball fans are not ok, because they might be circumventing under US law if they were to circumvent a US access control based on a US site … might depend on the technology; whether all the acts were occurring in Australia. Hmmm……

My brain hurts.

As Malik reports, we’ve having the “we own all rights to all images of sport for all time” debate again.

This time it’s cricket. Cricket Australia has been in disputes with all kinds of media over its accreditation rules (the rules that you have to follow if you want to be on the ground as a journalist, you know, to take photos and stuff).

As the Brisneyland Courier Mail reported the other day:

CA insists it holds the intellectual property rights to agency photographs taken at its venues, and that those photos cannot be re-sold without its permission. …
Cricket Australia said it was acting to protect the media rights that form its core revenue in a changing media landscape.
“Where cricket generates commercial value, we believe that some of it should be available for investment in the future of cricket,” CA spokesman Peter Young said.”

The SMH reports today that the accreditation stand-off between CA and News Ltd was resolved, but that international wire services Reuters, AP and AFP were still locked out of the Gabba after refusing to pay CA for images from the game.

Let’s think about this for a minute. “Where cricket generates commercial value, we believe that some of it should be available for investment in the future of cricket”. Hmmm. I quite like that reasoning. I guess that means also that where some journalist takes a photo with me in it and publishes it in a newspaper, that a picture of me is generating commercial value, and some of that value should be available for reinvestment in my appearance (then I could hire that personal trainer I’ve always wanted). Hey, and when I speak to journalists to explain stuff, I should get money for that to reinvest in finding out more stuff about IP law. yeah. Great reasoning.

Come on people. If we all sought to be paid for every little iota of commercial value that could be extracted out of everything, the world would grind to a halt.

Obviously, this is a dispute over media rights in sport, and obviously, that’s much bigger business than photos of me will ever be. And we ARE talking about a dispute between one big body (Cricket Australia) and several others (big international media companies). It’s a little silly to feel particularly sorry, in negotiations, for either side.

But sometimes I wish people would really think through the logic of their positions.

A report into Freedom of Information Laws and (media) free speech in Australia, commissioned by the Right to Know Coalition, has been released. Called the Report of the Independent Audit into the State of Free Speech in Australia, you can download it here (beware: big (336 page) pdf).

The media are breathlessly reporting that ‘more than 500 separate legal provisions in 335 different state and federal acts of Parliament are denying Australians access to a vast amount of information they should be able to see’. Numbers aside, I’ll be interested to see what kinds of information are limited, what grounds can be used to limit availability of information, and how the procedures for getting information are set up (are they complicated? simple?).

Obviously, I’ve not read it yet. Maybe more commentary when I have.

The other day I mentioned the government’s Discussion Paper reviewing the Legal Deposit Scheme. Michael Geist has pointed out to me that related debates – in particular about the relationship between legal deposit and TPMs – have occurred in Canada. So, for your further edification:

  1. Michael Geist’s column on the issue;
  2. The regulations
  3. The LAC Guidelines

I have a chapter in a new book. The book is called TV Futures: Digital Television Policy in Australia. Further information, contents and the first chapter are available at the CMCL-Centre for Media and Communications Law, University of Melbourne. You can order the book here. You can also find an abstract of the chapter here. TVFuturesCover