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…)

One of the problems with enforcing copyright in the digital environment is that there is a seemingly infinite amount of content online, free for the taking (if you don’t count broadband internet fees). As a result, it has often been difficult for content owners to convince everyone that downloading content that is easily available–but copyrighted–is illegal. This issue is nothing new.

So what is the cause of this problem, exactly? Is it too difficult to understand what copyright infringement is? Or do people just not care? I’ve always found the argument that Jessica Litman makes in her book, Digital Copyright (2001) (pp. 111-114), to be very convincing. Litman argues that many individuals ignore copyright laws simply because they don’t seem logical to them:

The current copyright statute has proved to be remarkably education-resistant. One part of the problem is that many people persist in believing that laws make sense. If someone claims that a law provides such and such, but such and such seems to make no sense, then perhaps that isn’t really the law, or wasn’t intended to be the way the law worked, or was the law at one time but not today, or is one of those laws…that is okay to ignore.

Litman notes that if enforcement is seen to be incomplete and uneven, people become less willing to apply for permission for what they currently receive without any such permission—or to pay for what they currently receive free. (more…)

IP Australia has released the IP Laws Amendment (Raising the Bar) Bill for public consultation. It’s huge: it covers patentability standards, a patent research exception; enforcement; oppositions – you name it, it’s in there. Written submissions due by 14 April 2011. More thoughts to come…

By now, all the copyright nerds in the world know the headlines: the Full Federal Court has handed down its decision in the iiNet case; that the appeal was dismissed in a 2:1 decision (Emmett and Nicholas JJ; Jagot J dissenting). Most people also will know that the reasoning is very, very different from the Trial Judge’s decision, and certainly contemplates, in a way that the Trial Judge didn’t, that in different factual circumstances an ISP could be liable for authorising infringement by its BitTorrenting users. The various major law firms have issued their summaries, I refer you there for an overview. Assoc Prof David Brennan from Melbourne Uni has expressed his succinct, and compelling view.

The decision is really long: it half looks like all three judges wrote as if theirs was to be the main decision (with others concurring or dissenting more briefly). A close reading reveals why. Although it is fair to say that the majority judges reach broadly the same conclusion on broadly similar grounds (namely, that the AFACT notices did not contain enough information to require action on the part of iiNet), they conceptualise the facts quite differently, and demonstrate important differences of approach. My early thoughts below the fold. This one’s for people generally familiar with the case and Australian copyright law though – beginners need to start, at least, with the law firm case notes.

I noted the other day that the Attorney-General had set out the upcoming copyright reform agenda.

And then an email alert crossed my desk – an actual copyright reform, in a dedicated Bill. Australia is to get a new copyright exception! Specifically, we are to get new s 44BA, for ‘acts done in relation to certain medicine’. It’s basically an exception to allow generic medicines producers to use the officially approved “Product Information Document” originally submitted when new drugs are approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration. The background to this amendment, according to the Explanatory Memorandum, is apparently this case, in which an originator pharmaceutical company got an interlocutory injunction, partly on the basis of an argument that copyright in the approved product information document would be infringed by the competitor’s use of the approved PI for its generic medicine.

This strikes me as perhaps one of the clearest arguments I’ve seen in a while for a fair use exception or other flexible exception in Australia. The very idea that someone has had to draft, and now the legislature has to pass, legislation to add this specific exception in is a clear indication that there just isn’t enough flexibility in the legislation. Is it just me?

Today, at a (invitation only) conference in Sydney, Australia’s Attorney-General Robert McClelland announced Australia’s copyright reform agenda for the next little while. I wasn’t there, but a transcript of the speech is here. In short, the agenda is this:

  1. On the issues in iinet, the AG believes that ‘an industry dialogue on this issue is the most productive way forward’. Apparently ‘The Government will look closely at the outcomes of any industry discussions’.
  2. On Australia’s Safe Harbours, the AG ‘to consult on proposals to adopt a broader definition of ‘carriage service provider’.’ to broaden the availability of these Safe Harbours. There will be a consultation paper on this soon.
  3. The AG’s Department will be considering the Copyright Advisory Group’s request for an additional exception to the anti-circumvention provisions, and will ‘invite submissions seeking views on whether any other new exceptions should be included, and I again invite those affected to take this opportunity to raise their issues.’ If you want to jailbreak your iphone, or anything else for that matter, now might be the time to think about it.
  4. The ALRC will likely get a reference towards the end of the year on copyright. The terms of reference will have to be written not to overlap with other work (like the convergence review) (good luck with that). At least, the ALRC is likely to look at exceptions in copyright in the context of the online environment and whether the correct balance exists’

Interesting times.

The Australian Digital Alliance will be holding a policy forum, titled “Righting the Copyright Balance”, on 4 March 2011 in Canberra. The full-day event looks to be a very interesting one, with sessions focusing on areas where Australian copyright law is thought to be most imbalanced between the rights of creators and users of copyright works.

Topics to be covered include safe harbours, the iiNet case, general exceptions, orphan works, and introducing flexibility to the Copyright Act.

LawFont’s own Kim Weatherall will provide a summary of the day’s discussion and propose an agenda for copyright reforms for the next few years.

If you are interested in attending, the deadline to RSVP is 25 February.

The Minister for Innovation has decided to ignore the Productivity Commission’s recommendations, and not to change the Australian regulatory regime for books introduced by the previous Labor government. In other words, publishers get to keep their territorial exclusivity for books, and the government thinks we should all get e-Readers instead (seriously, that’s practically in the press release).

Gans says it all really – the government, having spent the first year or two of their governmental life commissioning independent reviews and reports of various kinds has shown that lobbying can overturn any recommendations that result. Look forward to an increase in the lobbying population in Canberra.

But what I find amusing/interesting is this. When the film industry lobbied for better protection in the context of the US-Australia Free Trade Agreement negotiations, they lost. The book publishing industry has won. Which do you think has a brighter future in this increasingly audio-visual age…?

There have already been a few articles about the Larrikin Music Publishing Pty Ltd v EMI Songs Australia Pty Limited case.

The first thing to note is that the decision is just on a preliminary question. This is a procedural device used where it is likely to help save the court’s (and parties’) time and resources. In this case, the issue is just: for the purposes of this suit, does the applicant actually own the copyright it is seeking to enforce. If not, obviously, it would be possible to dismiss the case straight away, saving the expense of a trial. In this case, the preliminary question is simply a determination of a basic fact. (more…)

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.

Artist Shepard Fairey, who created the “Hope” poster of now President Obama, has filed a pre-emptive law suit against the Associated Press. The suit, which has been filed in United States District Court in New York, seeks a declaratory judgement for Fairey ruling that the poster is protected by fair use and does not infringe AP’s copyright in the photograph. The suit also seeks an injunction preventing AP from asserting its copyright in the photograph against Fairey.

From left to right: the original AP photograph (taken by Mannie Garcia in April 2006) and Shepard Faireys poster

From left to right: the original AP photograph (taken by Mannie Garcia in April 2006) and Shepard Fairey's poster

So, how does Fairey’s claim measure up against the four factors considered in fair use arguments? (more…)

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.

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…)

and all hell breaks loose, it seems. Sorry for the long radio silence: I’ve been on a research trip and not following things as closely as perhaps I should. A couple of general catch up notes:

  1. I would blog about the Internet Censorship material – I simply can’t believe that the Australian government is seriously wanting internet content filtering active in Australia – but to blog it would really be something of a waste – after all, there’s at least two other perfectly good sites for information about developments here: the wonderful Somebody Think of the Children, and of course, Dale Clapperton of the EFA and his Defending Scoundrels site and Irene Graham’s Libertus site. The EFA and others are doing good work on these issues. Want more? Go there!
  2. I would also blog about the IceTV case – it is, after all, one of the more significant ones lately to hit the High Court of Australia in copyright. However, it would probably be inappropriate to do so, since I’m a board member of one of the amicae that appeared in the case (the Australian Digital Alliance). I refer you to the AustLII transcripts of the hearing (Day 1, Day 2). I’ll comment once there is a judgment.
  3. ACTA developments continue. I was at a trade law conference in Washington last week and was surprised to hear a Deputy of the USTR endorse ACTA as one of the few “trade” agreements that could continue to move forward in this lame duck/pre-Obama time. I’ll have more to say on this in due course.

    And of course there’s the new case against an ISP for copyright infringement, noted in my last post. Can’t turn my back on you people, can I?

Next Page »