Late last week Justice Arnold in the UK High Court issued his judgment in Twentieth Century Fox v BT [2011] EWHC 1981 – ordering BT to block access to a website, Newzbin2 (, that was held in an earlier case to be infringing copyright on a large scale. Rick Shera and Lilian Edwards already have some interesting comments up, but I thought I’d add my 2c worth. (more…)

I’m very sad to hear of the death of Sir Hugh Laddie. Tributes are pouring in, of course. I’ll remember him for the 1995 Stephen Stewart lecture, “Copyright, Over-Strength, Over-Regulated, Over-Rated,” 18 E.I.PR. 253 (1996) – I read it the same year I first studied copyright, and it’s influenced my thinking ever since. His Modern Law of Copyright and Designs, too, is a constant standby when I teach: wonderful for its teasing out of the implications of rules through hypotheticals, cases, and more cases. He was a bold thinker, never cowed by IP orthodoxy (or the ECJ for that matter), and never shying away from the need for a strong, sensible IP system. He has been respected by all sides in the IP world – no mean feat in itself. He will be very much missed.

The IPKat has its own tribute; as does the IAM Blog and Howard Knopf, but for a sense of the man, you might want to look at Patry’s older post on his conversation with Sir Hugh after his decision to retire from the bench.

Update: Bill Patry’s heartfelt tribute.

More detail has now emerged on ‘three-strikes’ developments in the UK. ‘Three strikes’ refers to proposals currently doing the rounds – heavily pushed by various IP rights-owning organisations – to have ISPs monitor online copyright infringement (particularly P2P), warn users, and, if infringement persists, impose sanctions such as termination of service. The French have been drafting up such a scheme, it’s being pushed elsewhere (including here in Australia) and yesterday there were two significant developments in the UK:

  1. The UK government announced a voluntary ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ between six UK ISPs and BPI (music industry body) and the Motion Picture Association; and
  2. The UK Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform launched a consultation on ‘legislative options to address illicit Peer-to-Peer (P2P) File-Sharing.

There is already some online commentary: see Pangloss and the Open Rights Group [update: IAM Blog also has some commentary, as does IP Watch]. Some thoughts of my own over the fold. (more…)

The Times today is reporting that ‘[p]arents whose children download music and films illegally will be blacklisted and have their internet access curbed under government reforms to fight online piracy’. According to the report:

The measures, the first of their kind in the world, will be announced today by Baroness Vadera, who brokered the deal between internet service providers and Ofcom, the telecoms body…Britain’s six biggest service providers – BT, Virgin Media, Orange, Tiscali, BSkyB and Carphone Warehouse – have signed up to the scheme. In return, the Government has abandoned a controversial proposal to disconnect broadband services for users who had been caught out three times.

The scheme will, apparently, involve:

  1. warning letters
  2. sanctions – including “traffic management”, meaning a sudden curtailment of their internet speeds, and “traffic filtering”, a careful monitoring of the media files downloaded to an account to check whether they have paid for them.

The scheme does not, apparently, involve the passing on of personal information – BPI and copyright holders will not be given names.

I’m not sure what to think about that – on the one hand, it does get rid of some of the nastier aspects of some of the proposals that have been floating around (like termination of internet service, blacklisting and people being cut off for 12 months). On the other hand, and subject to seeing the details, it does seem to have all the problems of identifying the culprit, collective punishment, transgression of the presumption of innocence, and the imposition of sanctions without court review (see my previous comments here). It also doesn’t appear to be compulsory (in that not all the ISPs have ‘signed up’). Will await details with interest.

On further thought, I’m less and less comfortable with this. Maybe it’s those words – ‘management’, and ‘filtering’. We are, in effect, talking about the ‘management’ – and curtailing – of a fundamentally important communications medium, for the benefit of a particular industry, and with all the dangers that follow of doing exactly the same thing for other industries and interests. All to be done, it would appear, outside any finding by an independent, disinterested tribunal or court that there has in fact been mass infringement of a kind that would justify such a sanction. Yeah, my gut reaction is I don’t like it. In the end, there are important principles at stake here and they appear to be negotiated away by this deal. And I don’t think this is an end to it. But that’s just my view.

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…)

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.

Several people have pointed out to me that according to the SMH, like the UK government,

[t]he Rudd Government is considering a three-strikes policy against computer users who download songs illegally.

According to the SMH,

The Government will examine new legislative proposals being unveiled in Britain this week to target people who download films and music illegally. Internet service providers (ISPs) there might be legally required to take action against users who access pirated material.

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said the Government was aware of the views put by the music industry for a code of conduct for ISPs to address file-sharing by subscribers.

“We will also examine any UK legislation on this issue [including any three-strikes policy] with particular interest,” he said.

Now, admittedly, I’m an academic in Queensland – I’ve got no idea what is going on in Canberra. But it is worth noting that (a) it would be really weird if the Australian government did not ‘observe with interest’ what happens in the UK, (b) it would be equally weird if the Australian government did not ‘consider’ proposals put by industry, and (c) none of this is new – industry (in the form of MIPI most significantly) have been making this argument for some time (here, here.)

So I’m not presently feeling the need to spend a lot of time on this. Let’s just summarise the main problems with this approach, shall we? (more…)

Blogosphere is a-buzz with leaked news that the UK government might be considering requiring ISPs to monitor copyright infringement, and terminate repeat offenders. See Technollama, the IPKat, TechCrunch here, Boing Boing, Techdirt here, and the original Times Online here, . According to the Times:

Users suspected of wrongly downloading films or music will receive a warning e-mail for the first offence, a suspension for the second infringement and the termination of their internet contract if caught a third time, under the most likely option to emerge from discussions about the new law.

There has been a similar push in Australia by MIPI in particular; I’ve elsewhere (here and here) analysed the MIPI proposals and raised a number of questions about them (similar to the questions most of the blogosphere is raising). What I think is interesting about the UK developments is that it illustrates just how global this particular push is – looks like we have a coordinated (and more recently, more concentrated) push going on across a range of jurisdictions for a similar ‘notice and terminate’ kind of system. Here in Australia, though, it would be very ironic to see ‘Mr Broadband’ Kev Rudd legislating to switch off people’s internet contrary to presumptions of innocence and the like.

Frankly, too, it still seems like a proposal that is several years behind the trend of infringement. P2P is so, well, 10 years ago; bittorrent is used for all kinds of things (much more so than Kazaa or the like could ever claim), and the easiest way to ‘share’ copyright material is computer to computer.

Update: Open Rights Group put some of the problems well:

In most families, an internet connection is shared by the entire household – so if Dad gets the connection cut off for sharing movies online, suddenly Mum can’t run her business from home, and the kids can’t get access to the Web to do their homework. The Times estimates that there are 6 million people in the UK who share files illegally on the web. Any serious move towards disconnecting offenders is likely to play havoc with the Government’s ambition to foster an e-enabled society.

What’s more, as soon as law enforcers start snooping for IP addresses to pass on to ISPs for disconnection, hardcore filesharers will simply start using encryption to obfuscate their identities. Then they’ll develop software that makes it easy for non-technical people to do the same. And then industry will be back to square one.

Michael Geist, the IPKat, Bill Patry and no doubt others note that the UK IP Office has issued a consultation paper on ‘Taking Forward the Gowers Review of Intellectual Property: Proposed Changes to Copyright Exceptions‘. At a cool 90 pages, it’s a big document; it’s also a very detailed one, covering potential broadened copyright exceptions for private copying (format shifting), educational uses, private research and study, libraries and archives (for preservation), and parody. Interested parties have until 8 April 2008 to respond.

From an Australian perspective, having in the last couple of years gone through something fairly similar, I think one of the most interesting things about the consultation paper is a point picked up by Patry: the ‘recognition of the conflicting needs for clear guidelines so that people can know what they may do and what they may not, and the countervailing ad hoc nature of so many determinations’. In other words, the old ‘rules/standards’ or ‘flexibility/certainty’ debate. (more…)

I’ve become more interested in copyright bureaucracies, and patent and trade mark offices: how they operate; how transparent they are; who they are; how powers are divided between them; how they interact; how they characterise their role, their ‘customers’, and their ‘stakeholders’. How we make them accountable for the decisions they make – or how we fail to do so. Regular readers may have noticed this flavour seeping into some of my more recent posts and papers.

Today, my little obsession is the growth of cooperation between Patent Offices around the world. While there’s long been cooperation (Trilateral Cooperation, for example, between the US, Japan and Europe was set up as early as 1983) I’ve been detecting an increase in the number of press releases in this area, and the number of mooted pilots and activities. So, being the obsessive that I am, I thought I’d collect together what’s been going on – at least as published, that I can find – and offer a few thoughts and questions that these developments raise. (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…)

Not before time, the UK has opened up the UK Statute Law Database (SLD) – the official revised edition of the primary legislation of the United Kingdom – for free, public use. This will be really useful: I’ve always hated trying to find UK legislation, and thought they really needed a proper AustLII. Hat tip: Boing Boing.

Well, the final report of the Gowers Review of Intellectual Property has been released. The 140+ page report can be downloaded from here.

This is a big deal for the UK – a wholesale review of the efficiency and effectiveness of the whole UK IP system – albeit it has been easy to ignore the goings on, while we struggle locally with what is now, officially, the Australian Copyright Amendment Act 2006 (Cth). Below, a brief background, some links to the UK commentary, and some thoughts on how the recommendations stack up against/compare to what we’ve seen in the just-completed round of Australian copyright and other IP amendments. (more…)

Last week, we all had enormous fun laughing at EMI and it’s amazingly stoopid PR move (as well as highly questionable legal move) of trying to ban the circulation of a cricket songbook that put words to some of the tunes of songs that EMI owns. Fortunately, that little threat went away.

Now, via IPKat, I learn that the Barmy Army have issues too:

As if the England cricket team weren’t doing enough to lower the morale of their put-upon fans, the IPKat learns from DNA India that the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) is accusing the ‘Barmy Army’ of die-hard cricket fans of infringing its intellectual property rights. The claim is that merchandise bearing the ECB logo and the word ASHES infringement the ECB’s (presumably trade mark) rights. The ECB has said that it wants to avoid legal action, but hasn’t ruled it out.

What is wrong with these people?  Since when was it a good idea to stop people having fun and supporting their cricket teams? Let’s face it, the English Cricket Team clearly need all the help they can get!

One of the points I made in the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee on tuesday is that a significant cost of highly specific laws – and very specific and limited exceptions – is that people can’t develop or sell technologies with new and interesting features.

Point in case (via Freedom to Differ).

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