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…)

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…)

Last week, a Joint hearing of the Subcommittees on Africa, Global Human Rights and International Operations and Asia and the Pacific (part of the House International Relations Committee) of the U.S. Congress was held on the involvement of U.S. firms (including Yahoo! and Google, as has been discussed in earlier posts) in upholding China’s oppressive regulation of the Internet in that country. The hearings are interesting not only for the particular points raised, but for the question it raises on who is responsible for putting pressure on oppressive regimes: private sector firms or the governments that represent them? (more…)

In case you didn’t know already, in October 2005 Stanford University launched a partnership with Apple called “Stanford on iTunes“, which allows the public to download podcasts of Stanford lectures, events, and music free of charge. There are already over 400 programs available, including: Steve Jobs’ 2005 commencement address; various podcasts on technology; academic lectures on literature, philosophy, and music; and news of Stanford. Stanford on iTunes is also being used by Stanford academics to deliver content to their students. There does not seem to be any law-related content yet, but I’ll be looking out for it.

As with any content from iTunes, it’s not necessary to own an iPod to listen — you can also listen via another kind of mp3 player or your computer. The Stanford podcasts are available via an add-on to iTunes itself (meaning that it’s necessary to launch Stanford on iTunes via to download any content). It’s all pretty impressive, and I look forward to listening to some of the podcasts. I only hope that other universities will follow Stanford’s example.

Another Internet company has been accused of cozying up to the Chinese government. The other week, it was Google, which has decided to filter its search results, according to categories set by the Chinese government. This time, it seems that Yahoo! may have cooperated with the Chinese government in its arrest of a political dissident (and this may not have been the first time). (more…)

Because of Chinese government restrictions on the information available to its citizens, access to Google’s main website ( has either been prevented altogether or has been very slow. Google’s new Chinese website,, will not suffer the same problems. However, this access comes at a price. In exchange for access to the Chinese market, Google has agreed to censor its search results on the .cn version of the search engine. (more…)

This edition of “What is..?” considers VoIP, otherwise known as Internet telephony or IP telephony. VoIP, which stands for “Voice over Internet Protocol”, refers to the transmission of voice telephone calls over the Internet or any other IP-based network. VoIP systems use packet-switched networks to route and transmit voice calls, rather than the circuit-switching systems used by “traditional” voice telecommunications services.

This article provides an introduction to VoIP, including how it differs from traditional telephony services, and considers some of the regulatory issues raised by providing voice telephony over the Internet. While today VoIP might appear to be a niche product, it is in fact threatening to change the structure of the telephony industry, and is evidence of convergence between the Internet and telecommunications. (more…)

Earlier this month I posted Part 1 of “What is region coding?”, which described the technology, commercial rationale, and economic effects of this system. This posting is Part 2, and considers the legal implications of region coding, with a focus on developments in the United States and Australia. (more…)

This edition of “What is…?” describes the regional coding systems used by the entertainment industry, with a particular emphasis on DVDs. This article will explain the technology behind region coding, describe how the system is enforced, and speculate on the commercial reasons for the system. It will then consider the economic effects of region coding and its possible legal implications, including a discussion of recent litigation in which region coding has been at issue.

This posting contains Part 1, which provides an introduction to how region coding works from both technological and legal perspectives, as well as the commercial justifications for region coding and its possible economic effects. Part 2 considers the legal issues raised by region coding, in the context of both competition/antitrust law as well as the anti-circumvention provisions that have been adopted as part of copyright law in both Australia and the United States. (more…)

I’ve added Raymond Nimmer’s Contemporary IP Licensing and Information Law blog to our list of links.

Ray tends to post only every other week or so, but his entries are insightful and well argued. Those interested in the Google Print debate might be interested in reading his post on the subject, in which he argues that Google’s controversial scanning project is unlikely to fall under the fair use exception to copyright infringement.

In another post, Ray argues that shrinkwrap and clickwrap licences are enforceable contracts.

Adam Cohen has published an interesting, and critical, opinion piece on Google in The New York Times, focusing on privacy issues raised by the company’s technology and services.

It’s been a long time coming. The television and Internet industries are working together to offer consumers the ability to download, legally, movies and television episodes. This convergence might be seen as inevitable, particularly since the advent of TiVo, Foxtel iQ, and other services using digital video recording systems (DVRs), as well as the popularity of P2P file-sharing networks. These industry developments reflect an important influence: the power of consumer demand. (more…)

Given the recent attention given to book digitization projects, it is time to step back and consider developments to date. This post will first describe the projects launched by Google and the Open Content Alliance, and the consider some of the legal issues raised by Google Print, which is the subject of two major lawsuits. What follows is somewhat lengthy, but it has taken some space to do this interesting topic justice. (more…)

As expected, earlier this week a the Vastmanland district court in Sweden handed down the nation’s first decision on Internet file sharing. (more…)

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