This is an interesting story, from Larry Thompson, the Engineering Librarian at Virginia Tech, regarding DRM restrictions on SAE Digital Library, apparently a set of technical papers used by engineers – and engineering academics and students.

The DRM which SAE is proposing will apparently allow digital access only while a computer is connected online: it will not be possible to save copies to computers – if you want ongoing access, you have to print. How very 20th century. According to Larry Thompson, Virginia Tech is now considering what to do: as he puts it,

‘Do we want to spend thousands of dollars on digital format papers that users can’t save to their computers? The professor who wants to read an SAE paper while jetting to Europe for a conference will need to print out the paper … If one publisher does this, it may not be too bad. But what if every publisher adopts this policy, and the professor wants to take 50 papers to read during the flights? Do we want to pay roughly double the cost for a corporate license, in order to legally cover the walk-ins who might use the product, because as a land-grant university our library computers are open to the public?’

Read more here.

As we await the implementation of the OzDMCA, it’s been interesting to follow the debates, over in Europe and elsewhere, about Apple’s iTunes/iPod link. The basic issue here is that iTunes-purchased music can only be played on Apple iPod players – unless, of course, you hack the Apple FairPlay encryption (which can be done using various well-known methods).

The issue, of course, is that if someone buys a whole bunch of iPod music, then you get lock in – they’ll be more reluctant to move to another player. The technological protection, in other words, might serve to raise barriers to entry in the music player market. It’s attracted a bunch of attention recently. Here’s the brief summary:

  1. A few people got very excited when Microsoft announced it would be coming out with a new player/music service, so far named Zune, and that, to get out of this lock-in system, Microsoft would be looking to replace, for new users, any music they’d bought on iTunes. Have a look at the debate over on Freedom-to-Tinker (Post 1 and Post 2);
  2. In France, we had the DADVSI law – originally seen as potentially ‘forcing’ FairPlay open, the final form of the law has, according to reports, seen the provisions on interoperability eviscerated (see the Wikipedia entry on DADVSI here)
  3. Now, in Scandinavia, we have news today that Apple Computer Inc. met a Tuesday deadline with a 50 page response to Scandinavian regulatory claims that Apple is violating their laws by making its market-leading iPod the only compatible portable player for iTunes downloads. So far, the response is confidential.

What’s that phrase? Stay tuned? And perhaps watch for what the effect of any Australian law will be on all this…

Warner Bros. has joined a number of other television broadcasters in providing some of its programming for sale on Apple’s iTunes. A number of networks, including Fox (owned by News Corp.), ABC (Walt Disney Co.), NBC (Universal), CBS, and MTV (Viacom Inc.), along with Warner Bros., together offer more than 150 television shows for US$1.99 per episode. The shows may be viewed on a computer or a video iPod. And what’s really interesting — it’s possible to subscribe to a current season of a television show (and not just repeats). (more…)

Readers may recall that one of the big issues in Australia’s FTA negotiations with the US was the issue of drug pricing, the pharmaceutical benefit scheme, and drug listing. This was one issue where the Australian government stood its ground – to some extent (of course, there’s plenty of debates about whether the ground they gave was too great – see Peter Drahos’ work on this generally, particularly this working paper for the Evatt Foundation).

Well, now it’s apparently Korea’s turn. (more…)

One of the things I said just recently, in the Unlocking IP Conference at UNSW, was that one issue for Creative Commons, in seeking acceptability for use in the public sector, is the rhetoric. I argued that sometimes, in their eagerness to convince ‘the masses’, Creative commons mateiral has a tendency towards rhetorical excess and a ‘boosterism’ that isn’t a comfortable fit with either the public sector, or, indeed, with Australian culture more generally.

I wonder if other people agree with this point? (more…)

It’s time for another post on the OzDMCA – that is, the forthcoming Australian law implementing Article 17.4.7 of the Australia-US Free Trade Agreement – an article based very closely on the (in)famous US law, the DMCA. I’m prompted to write by a recent Slashdot thread on this, as well as the recent Linux Australia campaign seeking to highlight the dangers of a DMCA-style law in Australia. The Linux Australia pages have a general explanation of the issues on DVDs (see here), and on some of the issues in music (see here).

I’m also prompted by the fact that it is now July, 2006, and we have not seen any exposure draft of the legislation. Given the timeline, I think we can only assume that either (a) the Department have decided to consult only with some limited set of stakeholders, or (b) that any consultation is going to be extremely brief.

Now, as I’ve said numerous times before (see my submission, 2 years ago, to the Senate Select Committee, and my submission, last year, to the LACA Inquiry) – anti-circumvention law is hard. It also has really strong potential to have nasty effects if implemented badly. And the risks of bad implementation are high, because the AUSFTA text is really problematic – it has a structure that has some ‘lamentable and inexcusable’ flaws (the quote is from LACA).

I’ve been wondering for some time whether we need to enact laws that look like the DMCA. I think there are areas where the AUSFTA text does have space to do things that are sensible.

So in this post, I’m going to outline two things Australia could do in implementing the OzDMCA, which would reduce its bad effects. (more…)

Yahoo reports that the US Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal by AA Milne’s granddaughter Clare to cancel a licence to the Winnie the Pooh characters from the estate of a long-time licensee so she could license them to Disney.

According to a scanned article on the website of the licensee’s lawyer’s firm, Disney was a co-plaintiff of Clare Milne’s at trial, but did not join the appeal. The estate of the licensee, Stephen Slesinger, won both the trial and appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals from which Milne unsuccessfully sought certiorari. (more…)

Australia is not the only nation to be rethinking its media ownership laws — the United States Federal Communications Commission is also considering whether to lift the current restrictions on ownership of a newspaper and a radio or television station in the same market. (more…)

IPLaw360 reports on a lawsuit by a Stanford researcher against the estate of James Joyce to use material to supplement a book she has written about the author.

According to the story, the researcher, Professor Carol Shloss, removed material from her 2003 book about the Irish author and his daughter in response to threats of a copyright infringement lawsuit by the estate. She is now suing in the Federal Court for the Northern District of California to obtain a declaration that posting the removed material on her website as a companion to the book would not result in copyright infringement.

Stanford’s Center for Internet and Society has a copy of the suit. There is comment on the case in The New Yorker, and it was also mentioned in a lecture given last year by Matt Rimmer.

What I wonder about is how much of this material is actually copyrighted, given that at least some of it seems to have predated (in the USA) the 1976 Copyright Act, and (in the UK) the 1956 Act. (It is not clear from the complaint when all the material complained of was created. It’s also not entirely clear whether or when copyright in material created by third parties was transferred into the estate.)

Are Internet telephony companies a good investment? Perhaps not–or perhaps just not yet.

Atlanta-based law firm Motley Rice has filed a class action against Vonage, on behalf of shareholders who bought stock in the Internet telephony provider prior to its intial public offering on 24 May, and have already lost a great deal on their investment. Filed on Friday 2 June in the US District Court for the District of New Jersey, the suit alleges that investors were mislead by the company, its officers, and certain underwriters of the IPO, when they were offered shares in the company. (more…)

Is linking to websites without permission against the law? Generally not. But Apple may not be so far off the mark by demanding that comedy website Something Awful remove a link posted to one of Apple’s own internal service manuals. (The service manual is posted at a third website, which was not authorised to reproduce the manual, and not Something Awful itself.)

However, as pointed out on Out-Law, the truth may be that Apple’s complaint has not put the company in a “tricky and potentially embarrassing situation.” Although in general linking does not violate copyright or other applicable laws, links to infringing material may expose the linking party to contributory copyright infringement. In other words, posting the link, while not a direct infringement of copyright, might be deemed to encourage others to infringe copyright by dowloading the infringing material (in this case, the manual). (more…)

The US Supreme Court has unanimously allowed eBay’s appeal regarding the award of injunctive relief for patent infringement, and returned the case to the District Court for further consideration. Justice Thomas wrote the opinion of the court, which was characteristically short and to the point. The Chief Justice issued a concurring opinion joined by Scalia and Ginsberg, J.J., and Justice Kennedy issued a concurring opinion joined by Stevens, Souter and Breyer, J.J.

The procedural background was as follows: MercExchange held a number of patents which it attempted unsuccessfully to license to eBay and MercExchange then sued the two for patent infringement, and succeeded. (more…)

The Australian Record Industry Association, 2005

‘On a general note, ARIA considers that any amendment to the reproduction right and its exemptions needs to support new business models and the successful roll out of digital formats and online services. The industry considers that the market requires music products that are tailored to consumer needs and expectations, including home copying. This can and needs to be achieved through product design and technology, not through legislative amendment which distorts the market response to consumer demands.’

And they go on to elaborate:

  1. It is the goal of record companies, both internationally and in Australia, to support the introduction of new options and business models offering different services and options to consumers at different price points.
  2. in the short term, technological developments will enable consumers to make a reasonable number of copies of recordings under licence from the copyright owner;
  3. in the short term, technological developments will provide copyright owners with the means to limit uncontrolled copying of recordings;
  4. in the short term, technological developments will provide to consumers the flexibility that they are seeking whilst ensuring that, at the same time, Australia continues to be able to meet its obligations under various copyright treaties;
  5. an abrogation of the rights of copyright owners and creators cannot be justified on the basis that because technology allows private copying to occur (and has done so for
    some time), such copying has assumed the status of a “right”;
  6. there is no problem, because no one has ever been prosecuted for private copying, and while ‘that does not mean that the copyright owners condone that private copying, it clearly demonstrates that copyright owners have not sought to utilise remedies available to them under the Copyright Act to address the problem.’

Notably, ARIA rejected a private copying levy as an idea.

United Kingdom, BPI, 2006:

‘The British music industry is to recommend to the Government that consumers be allowed to legally copy music without fear of prosecution.

The BPI, the body that represents British record companies, believes copyright on CDs and records should be changed to allow consumers to copy music if it is for personal use. Currently, it is technically illegal for anyone to copy a CD onto their computer for the purposes of downloading music onto their own portable music player.

In its submission to the Gowers Review – the independent review body set up by the Treasury to examine the UK’s intellectual property framework – the BPI has asked for the issue of this area of music copyright to be addressed.

Worth noting that it’s not clear from this story whether BPI are recommending a statutory levy of any kind. But still, it’s a notable contrast.

United States, RIAA, for a very long time:

If you choose to take your own CDs and make copies for yourself on your computer or portable music player, that’s great. It’s your music and we want you to enjoy it at home, at work, in the car and on the jogging trail.

So here’s what I don’t get. Why is the Australian position so very different? Is it because here, unlike, say, Canada, where at least there’s been some action in the music industry recently, particularly in terms of the representativeness of CRIA etc, there is so little outcry against the ridiculous position under Australian law? What do people think about this?

Those of us who have a tendency to place high importance on free speech, and fair dealing, and transformation of existing creative material sometimes discount the very real interests of authors to control the outputs of their own creative impulses. In some respects, the submission of the National Association for the Visual Arts in the Attorney-General’s Fair Use Review is a useful reminder of the other side.

If you need another useful reminder – or maybe just some food for thought – head on over to Mike Madison’s post on what sounds like an extremely interesting panel presenting the conflict in terms of real people. He describes a panel at a conference where an appropriative artist and a photographer, got up on the same stage to defend their views and approaches.


Yochai Benkler has followed a trend set by such people as Larry Lessig and Michael Geist, and made his new book, The Wealth of Networks, available under a Creative Commons License. He’s gone further than Lessig or Geist, I think, and has put the ideas in the book – which are all about commons-based and cooperative production – to the test in the real world. It will be of interest to anyone who thinks the whole concept of the Commons, Creative Commons, and ‘social production’ are interesting. Comments on this method of publication, and the book itself, over the fold. (more…)

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