more analysis later.
updated: judgment now available on AustLII.
Further update: commentary will have to wait until after my classes today. But please consider this an open thread for any discussion!
Further Further Update: Warwick Rothnie has some very interesting thoughts on the case here. He’s certainly right about one thing. There’s a heckuva lot of food for thought in these judgments.

“Senator Kim Carr, Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, today called for written submissions on proposed reforms to Australia’s intellectual property (IP) system.

A strong and efficient IP system is a cornerstone of successful innovation.

The proposed reforms are designed to help Australian innovators take their inventions to a global marketplace and encourage foreign investors to bring their new technology to Australia.

This means growth both for our economy and our skilled workforce.

The call for submissions provides a valuable opportunity for interested parties to contribute to the Government’s work in strengthening Australia’s innovation sector and boosting the nation’s economic prosperity.

The multifaceted reforms aim to reduce barriers in the innovation landscape for researchers and inventors, allow patent claims to be resolved faster and strengthen penalties for counterfeiting and other serious forms of trade mark infringement.

The Australian Government is committed to working with business and professionals to get the balance right so the IP system can better serve innovation in Australia.”

Media Release here.
Discussion/Reform Papers on IP Australia Website here.

Submissions due by 8 May 2009.

According to the Exec Summaries of the two papers, the proposed reforms aim to improve the balance in the patent system by:

  1. raising the thresholds set for grant of a patent in Australia and better aligning Australia’s key
    patentability standards with standards in countries which are our major trading partners; and
  2. improving the scope and stringency of examination to reduce inconsistencies and give
    greater certainty in the validity of granted patents.
  3. introducing a statutory exemption covering certain experimental activities

Let the fun begin!

IP Australia is reviewing the penalties (criminal offences) and additional damages in trade mark law. Actually, they’ve been reviewing this for a while: we had the ACIP Review, and then an Options Paper (pdf) published by IP Australia back in November; submissions on the Options Paper close this week.

Anyway, I was just reading through the options paper again, and I noticed that IP Australia is proposing to adopt something like the tiered system of liability that we now have in the Copyright Act: or at least, some of it. They are proposing to have indictable offences for intentional trade mark infringement, and summary offences for negligent trade mark infringement. This, of course, is based on the Copyright Act system. And so I thought it was raising the question again: what kind of a silly standard for criminal liability for IP infringement is negligence? (more…)

Ever wanted a copy of the Australian Constitution when not at your desk? If so, you may be interested to hear that the full text of the Australian Constitution is now available for your iPhone (or iPod Touch). It’s a free application, available internationally through iTunes (please note that this link will work only if you have iTunes installed).

It may interest readers to know that our own Ben wrote the application and uploaded it to the Apple App Store.

Thanks, Ben!

There is certainly a value to social networking websites. Some serve professional networking purposes (such as LinkedIn). And others, like Facebook, have proved to be an effective means of connecting with old friends (for me, including ones I’d lost touch with completely).

It’s not news that we use these websites at our own peril. But here’s a couple of more reasons to be wary, both legal and technical.

A new Facebook notification? “You’ve been served!”

In what seems to be a legal first, a judge of the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court has upheld the right of lawyers to serve legally binding court documents and notices by posting them on defendants’ Facebook sites.

Plaintiff MKM Capital applied to Master David Harper of the Supreme Court to use Facebook to serve notice of a judgment on two borrowers who had defaulted on a loan. The defendants had failed to repay a loan of $150,000 they borrowed from MKM last year to refinance their mortgage. After being granted a default judgment for the loan amount and for possession of the house after the couple failed to appear in court to defend the action, MKM then had to locate the defendants and serve them with the papers.

After hiring private investigators and 11 failed attempts to find the couple, the lawyers identified the Facebook profiles of the defendants, convinced the court that those profiles did in fact belong to the couple, and satisfied the court that communication through their Facebook pages was a sufficient means of communicating with the defendants.


It was just a matter of time before social networking websites became infected with computer viruses. And now it’s happened: Koobface, a Trojan worm, has been making its way through Facebook and to other social networking websites. The worm generates profile comments that encourage users to click through to an external website that pretends to offer a video to view, but then says that an upgrade of Adobe Flash is necessary first. Users who click on the “install” button infect their computer with the virus. The result? Enabling identity theft and click fraud.

Does this site strike anyone else as, well, just a bit dodgy? “International validity for a lifetime”???

ZDNet has some interesting discussion of different ISPs’ policies.

I mentioned yesterday the current debate over internet censorship in Australia. I should, at the same time, have mentioned a free event that UNSW’s Baker & McKenzie Cyberspace Law and Policy Centre is having next Thursday. Full webpage here with speakers/program/etc. Here’s the short version:

The UNSW Cyberspace Law and Policy Centre is hosting a forum to explore aspects of the Australian Government’s current Internet filtering and censorship proposals. The aim is to get beyond some of the more heated claims and counter-claims circulating at present and explore the underlying issues and constraints, hopefully giving room for various perspectives and arguments to be considered on their merits. …
Date/Time: Thursday 27 November 2008, 9:30 am for 10:00 to 2:30 pm
Location: Theatre G02, ground floor, Law Building F8, UNSW Kensington Campus, Sydney NSW
Cost: Free, but donations to help cover the cost will be accepted at the door.

As I noted yesterday, a legal action has been launched by some 34 applicants from the television and movie industry against Australian ISP iiNet, alleging that iiNet has authorised copyright infringement by failing to take (adequate) steps to prevent sharing and downloading of films and TV shows via protocols like BitTorrent. A kind little birdie has sent me a copy of the Statement of Claim, so I have a bit more info. It makes for some interesting reading.

There are a number of interesting questions at the heart of this potential case:

  1. What, exactly, are ISPs required to do when they become aware that users are potentially infringing copyright? Do they have to terminate people alleged by the movie industry to be ‘repeat infringers’?
  2. How much responsibility will Australian courts put on intermediaries for ‘doing something’ about copyright infringement? So far, Australian courts have been pretty ready to impose liability on people they thought were ‘profiting from copyright wrongdoing’ – Kazaa with its P2P network, or Cooper with his ‘mp3sforfree’ website and his ISP host. What about others whose nefarious or infringing purpose is not so obvious? What, in other words, of more ‘ordinary’ service providers?
  3. When the legislation requires that ISPs, in order to ‘gain absolution’ or immunity from damages, should ‘adopt and reasonably implement a policy that provides for termination, in appropriate circumstances, of the accounts of repeat infringers’ – what does that really mean? Is it sufficient to terminate only those found liable for infringement? Is the court allowed to determine whether the policy is real or sufficient?

Politically, there are some equally interesting questions. Will the Internet industry respond to the lawsuit by looking for a settlement deal that goes some way towards creating the kind of ‘notice and terminate’ system that copyright owners have been pressing for? Will the government’s past approach of protecting ISPs from liability in order to further the digital economy hold? Or, has the tide turned: are we now in a climate where the courts, like the government, decide to hold ISPs to a higher standard, just as the government is trying to get ISPs to engage more actively in filtering adult content? And is this all just an attempt to promote a certain filter that purports to filter both porn and copyright infringement…?

More thoughts on the law side of things over the fold. (more…)

We’ve been expecting this might happen for a while. Now it has. From the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft media release:

“Today, seven leading film companies and their affiliates and licensees filed a legal action against iiNet, a major Australian internet service provider. The action was filed by Village Roadshow, Universal Pictures, Warner Bros Entertainment, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, Disney Enterprises, Inc. and the Seven Network, the Australian licensee of some of the infringed works. The companies seek a ruling that iiNet infringed copyright by failing to take reasonable steps, including enforcing its own terms and conditions, to prevent known unauthorised use of copies of the companies’ films and TV programs by iiNet’s customers via its network.”

In other words, it’s the argument that an ISP is authorising infringement of copyright. Without seeing the statement of claim, can’t say much more, except this: this is the next ‘upping of the ante’: designed, no doubt, to increase the pressure on ISPs and the Internet Industry Association to negotiate on the so-called ‘three strikes’ proposal for a system for terminating internet access of alleged copyright infringers.

Interesting times. (and yes, I’d love more information if anyone has any…).

On 3 October, Australian Arts Minister Peter Garrett announced that the Australian Federal Government plans to introduce a resale royalty right for works of visual art by 1 July 2009. This right will ensure that visual artists receive a portion of the proceeds from resales of their works. The legislation establishing the resale royalty right scheme has not yet been introduced in Parliament, but is expected bythe end of 2008.

The Government has issued a fact sheet on how the right would be structured. In short, the resale royalty scheme would involve a mandatory five per cent artist’s royalty on resales of artworks, when works are sold for $1,000 or more. The right will apply to works by living artists and for a period of 70 years after the artist’s death. (more…)

On Monday Susanne noted that ACMA had released their internet content filtering report. Well, as you can imagine, there’s been some blogospheric and professional reaction:

  1. SAGE (the Sysadmin Guild of Australia) has slammed the artificiality of the methodology used (press release, media report);
  2. Somebodythinkofthechildren has produced a great summary set of links to other reactions, here (hat tip: Peter Black).

So CAL has had a win in the High Court. In Copyright Agency Limited vs The State of NSW [2008] HCA 35, a unanimous High Court overturned the Full Federal Court’s ruling that Lands and Property Information (formerly the Land Titles Office), part of the NSW Department of Lands, does not have an implied license extending to allow the LPI to scan copies of survey plans, lodged with the office as a necessary element in registering title to land, and pass copies on to LPI staff, government agencies, councils, relevant authorities, information brokers and members of the public. One thing we don’t yet know is how much the NSW government will have to pay. The use will still fall within the government’s statutory license (Div ) – which means the government can make the copies but must pay equitable remuneration, to be determined by the Copyright Tribunal. This judgment presumably means the matter goes back to the Tribunal for determination.

[UPDATE: Catherine Bond has two long and interesting posts at House of Commons: Part 1 (Can’t the government just legislate to allow them to do it free?), Part 2 (but the Constitution!). Inchoate responds here.Nick Gruen has an AFR op-ed, which is re-produced on Club Troppo here – referring to Fitzgerald’s and Anderson’s (pre-High Court decision) article here.]

On one view, this is copyright run a little mad. (more…)

On 28 July, the Australian Communications and Media Authority released its report which sets out the findings of the closed environment testing of ISP-level filters conducted in 2008. The Closed Environment testing report followed hot on the heels of the Developments in Internet Filtering Technologies and Other Measures for Promoting Online Safety report released in February 2008. The latest report shows that the filtering technology has definitely improved in terms of the accuracy of what it blocks and the impact it has on network performance since the NetAlert Ltd trial conducted in 2005. The conclusion, though, is that the filtering technology has not developed sufficiently to be able to tell the difference between legal and illegal and/or inappropriate content carried via non-web protocols (such as peer-to-peer and instant messaging).

The Internet Industry Association, CHOICE (the Australian Consumers’ Association), the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) and Australian Digital Alliance (ADA) have today expressed their concern about the possible contents of the ACTA negotiations that I’ve discussed a few times (most recently here). They have also agreed a set of six principles which, in their view, should guide the Australian approach to the negotiations:

  1. Transparency and accountability (all stakeholders should see and comment on text before it is concluded)
  2. Presumption of innocence (no enforcement, civil or criminal, without independent findings of infringement)
  3. Proportionality (all enforcement measures to be proportionate to the seriousness of any infringement)
  4. Consideration of impact on other treaties and laws (no doubling up or inconsistency with Australia’s existing obligations)
  5. Avoiding the prescription of surveillance technologies for IP enforcement
  6. Safeguards against liability for intermediaries (such as educational
    institutions, libraries and Internet Service Providers)

More detail in the principles document, which can be downloaded from the IIA or ADA.

Press releases:

  1. IIA
  2. Australian Digital Alliance

Note: I am a member of the board of the ADA.

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