April 2008

The 2020 Submissions are online – over 8,000 of them. And I’m impressed: the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft have put a submission in, and there are no prizes for guessing their favourite big picture ideas for making Australia a great place:

We encourage the 2020 Summit to commit to the following measures: – acknowledge the threat posed to creative works in the digital age; – provide for effective, adequately resourced enforcement of copyright laws against copyright crimes; – educate the public about the consequences of copyright theft and inappropriate consumer behaviour – to respect copyright no matter what the ‘capacity’ of the digital device; – regulate ISPs to ensure they respect both the copyright content on, and the terms and conditions of their networks; ensure ISPs work with copyright owners to educate consumers, respond to illegal activities and prevent illegal distribution of copyright content on their networks.

And here’s me thinking the summit was supposed to be a place for generating new and interesting ideas…

Update: oh, look, MIPI too (hat tip: Matthew Rimmer). And look – same ‘idea’:

To address these issues, the Australian music industry, supported by a range of other content owners are proposing a “notice and disconnection” or 3 strikes and out system for persistent illegal file sharers. In short, the proposal seeks to deter IP theft by establishing a streamlined industry mechanism where the IP addresses of users involved in significant copyright infringements form the basis of a graduated process of warning notices, suspension and ultimately disconnection by Australian ISPs. Of course, disconnection will only occur as a last resort.

Ah yes. The three-strikes policy. Just what Australia needs to power into the next few decades. What a wonderful ‘big idea’. Won’t that just empower us all, and make that broad technology work for us.

Fascinating exchange in the US Supreme Court on statistics, deterrence, and the death penalty. Quote of the day: ‘can a constitutional question of this magnitude turn on econometric rabbit-holes’?

Periodically there’s a debate about whether law profs should have the right to ‘turn off’ internet access in the classroom. I for one can certainly say that as a lecturer, I’m pretty confident I can tell broadly, which of the many students with laptops are tuned out, and at times, I do wish I could just switch it off.

Here’s the best argument I’ve seen though for turning off the wireless – basically, it makes it much less fun, and much more demoralising for the lecturer if students sit and surf. And that means everyone suffers, because a demoralised lecturer is – well, not fun.

Of course the answer is ‘be more interesting!!! and they’ll listen’. Yes, to a degree, but I’m not entirely convinced. After all, can you really fascinate all of the students all of the time? I’ve sat in the most amazing lectures and still seen people checking the old email/facebook/youtube.

Bill Patry has another must-read, where he’s analysed a submission of the ‘Music Business Group’ in the UK opposing the introduction of a personal format-shifting exception not unlike the one we introduced in Australia in 2006.

You really must go and read Bill’s post, but one thing that really struck me was the summarised argument by the MBG: (more…)

Cadbury purpleI was going to write about the latest decision of the Federal Court on Cadbury’s long, drawn-out battle to prevent Darrell Lea use the colour purple to market its goodies, including chocolate (I’ve written about earlier decisions; see here, here, here).

But then I found this masterful post by TM expert, Mark Davison. Nuff said.

Via Joshua Gans: a very cool video showing cool things that can be done with a Wii Remote – including make an instant interactive whiteboard.

Of course, if you were at linux.conf.au 2008, at open day, you saw the inimitable Rusty Russell do something very similar to make a fun projector tennis game.

In case you hadn’t picked it up on the many places that have reported the news – the European Parliament has voted against a ‘three strikes’ policy which would require ISPs to ‘terminate’ internet access to repeat copyright infringers. Rapporteur Guy Bono commented:

‘The cut of Internet access is a disproportionate measure regarding the objectives. It is a sanction with powerful effects, which could have profound repercussions in a society where access to the Internet is an imperative right for social inclusion.’

Here here. Extended story: IP Watch. According to that story, the Parliament voted generally in favour of the report (report available here), but voted 314 to 297 on amendment 22 to request member states not to authorise shut-off as part of the graduated response to fight copyright violations.

Waugh Partners have released the Australian Open Source Industry and Community Report, 2008. It’s both beautiful, and interesting – and doesn’t support all the myths we generally have about the open source community. Congrats, Jeff & Pia.

Go read it!

One project homes company in Australia now has a 70+ year monopoly on putting a kitchen, family room, meals area, and rumpus room around a covered alfresco area at the back of the house. What is more, companies in the project homes area are doing to have to be really careful about how they approach their research on competitors’ houses – bearing in mind that visiting other designers’ houses, particularly if you do it more than once, will be held against them in a court of law.

Got your attention? Good.

Now I should qualify that slightly overstated introduction.

Perhaps more accurately, following the Full Federal Court decision in Metricon Homes Pty Ltd v Barrett Property Group Pty Ltd, it is going to be more difficult for project home companies to do open plan living around a covered alfresco space. So far, Barrett Property Group Pty Ltd (t/as Porter Davis Homes) have succeeded in two lawsuits against two other project home companies for copying their arrangement of rooms (refs at bottom of this post). I find the judgments – particularly the latest appeal judgments – interesting, and in some respects, a little disturbing. More over the fold. (more…)

Peter Martin has a good summary this morning of the 2020 Summit questions (available here).

Issues to watch:

  1. The governance group, which is discussing the need for a bill of rights; the way in which interactive technology can change the nature of political engagement, the role of lobbyists, think tanks and the media as well as the role and limits of freedom of information laws.
  2. The productivity group, which is discussing what Australia can do to foster innovation, encourage the transfer of ideas across businesses, connect scientists to others in the economy, and what differences the ‘developing digital economy’ (whatever that is) could make ‘right across the education lifecycle’ (whatever that is).

Some Australian jurisdictions are experimenting with human rights charters. A very smart colleague of mine from Melbourne Uni, Jeremy Gans, has started a blog, Charterblog, to follow what’s happening. A valuable (and very attractively presented) resource, particularly now that there’s some discussion of a possible Federal version. Welcome to the blogosphere, Charterblog.

Bill Patry this morning has a must-read post on the three step test and the defence of fair use. Basic premise: fair use is compatible with the three step test – the issue was never raised as a concern for Berne compliance in the US. Of course, just because there’s a feature of US law which wasn’t addressed by the US in its compliance process doesn’t mean it actually is consistent with Berne (moral rights anyone?).

Nevertheless, Bill’s point is well made in this case – the three step test was, as I understand it, meant at drafting to be a test that would cover existing common exceptions found in various countries. It was deliberately open-textured. An open-textured defence should be considered consistent.

Here’s a report Peter Garrett might be interested in: the UK IP Office has released a Report it commissioned into the UK Resale Royalty Scheme.

The UK introduced such a scheme (which provides a percentage of sale prices of original artworks to the artist) in 2006 – as a result of a European Directive. Peter Garrett has in the past indicated some support for a scheme (for a potted history of developments in Australia, see here).

Some findings:

  1. About £2.5 million of Artist Resale Rights is being collected annually, of which around £1.5 million accrues to British artists. (NOTE: at the moment, the British scheme does not apply to dead artists – but it will in the future).
  2. Most of these payments are quite small, and the median payment to artists based on auction house data is £256. Auction house data indicate that during the period since its introduction, 80% of all ARR payments should have gone to the top 100 artists.
  3. The cost of administering ARR entailed a set-up cost in the region of £1 million and recurrent administration costs of £50,000 per year.
  4. While the administrative burden of ARR does not seem to have been excessive for most businesses, there have been a problems associated with difficulties in establishing the nationality of artists among other things. A significant minority of art market professionals, including the major auction houses, deem the administration of ARR to be intrusive and burdensome.

Doesn’t sound like the kind of thing that is going to change the world for artists to me.

Peter Martin, here. Most interesting about his comments is the fact that music sales are up.