This is one of a series of posts on how the TPM Exposure Draft affects particular groups. First, I want to talk about consumers.

Summary: consumers are worse off under the Exposure Draft than they are under current law. This is because they now risk liability where they did not before (liability for the individual act of circumvention has been introduced). This is the intended effect of the laws, and was inevitable under the FTA. The hot-button issues for consumers, however, are:

  1. region-coding: here, the result is a little murky;
  2. spare parts (printer cartridges, garage door openers): problem avoided;
  3. the making of back-ups: there will be no such right. Unfortunate, but probably inevitable. But note that so far, the making of more than one copy or provision of replacement copies is tending to be accommodated (iTunes).

One important point to note for consumers is that there is little in this package to protect us from malfunctioning TPMs, or even evil wicked mean and nasty Sony Root-kit type TPMs.

What consumers might say to the government: thanks for trying to restrict the ambit of these laws and relate it directly to copyright. I can see you’ve really tried here, and you appear to have listened to the concerns expressed by the LACA, and taken a restrictive view of the laws you have to introduce. As a consumer, I think that’s pretty good, really. But there are still a couple of areas where I think the score card reads ‘must try harder’:

  1. Please explain why you are protecting malfunctioning or evil nasty destructive TPMs at all? Apparently, no one is allowed to help me get past a malfunctioning or obsolete TPM.
  2. I’d like some assurance that if a Sony Rootkit Fiasco ever happens here, Australian law will provide me with a remedy. Please publish the analysis that indicates that the Sony Rootkit scenario would be illegal under Australian law, or tell us how you are going to address the issue.


A further piece of the puzzle has been published: the government has now published its Draft Regulations to go with the TPM Exposure Draft. The purpose of the regulations is to set out further exceptions being proposed to the anti-circumvention laws.

Further analysis once I’ve read through…

As I and others have noted: the Australian government has finally released the Exposure Draft of the OzDMCA: the Australian version of the DMCA anti-circumvention law, required as a result of the Australia-US FTA. It’s a big, complex piece of legislation, on a really hard area. What follows are my first thoughts on the Exposure Draft. I’ll be interested to hear what other people think. None of what follows represents a concluded view. There’s just too much there to have reached that point yet.

In summary, I think that the AG’s Department has written a piece of legislation which aims to be narrow in its application, and which aims to exclude from its clutches technologies and acts that are not related to copyright. Under this law, we will not be getting garage door opener cases or printer cartridge cases. Clearly, someone in government was listening to concerns raised by opponents of the legislation; to the LACA in its critical report; perhaps to the High Court in the Stevens v Sony case. There is a lot of language in here that seeks to tie the legislation to copyright.

Nevertheless, the government has also:

  1. Written a complex piece of legislation, aspects of which are very subtle and which are going to take a while to work out.
  2. Not fixed the region-coding problem: it is highly likely that region-coding technologies will still be protected, and circumvention of these banned;
  3. Not fixed the exceptions problem: if you have a right to circumvent an access control, you are still going to either (a) need to be a geek or (b) need to look overseas to make use of it, I suspect.
  4. Continued the present trend of writing highly complex legislation which will be very difficult for the average person to understand.

Over the fold: more comments. (more…)

I was in Canberra this week, not just to speak to the ACT Society for Technology and Law (about P2P stuff), but also to talk at an ADA forum on the forthcoming OzDMCA (our new anti-circumvention laws).

Two things I learned at the forum. (more…)

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…

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 iownmydvds.org here), and on some of the issues in music (see iownmymusic.org 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…)

A few interesting developments on a number of fronts:

The Register has a story panning the trial judge’s decision in the Apple trade secrets vs blogging case. According to the story, “Judge Rushing cites Wikipedia as a source, a mistake which earns students an ‘F’ grade today. He talks about the need to disregard economics and sociology in favor of a ‘memetic marketplace’ – whatever that is – and allows himself some flights of technological rapture.”

ArsTechnica has an interview with the CEO of eMusic. You may not have heard of eMusic, but it is currently the number 2 seller of downloadable music, behind only Apple’s iTunes Music Store. And the interesting part: eMusic does not use DRM. (And its songs cost only about 25c each, from what I can see on its website). I wonder how Napster can complain about this one?

Finally, an interesting post claims that a newly-created lobby group for net neutrality is just a shill for telcos. And according to SourceWatch (run by the nonprofit Center for Media and Democracy) the primary funder of the group is … AT&T.

Time for some Friday morning links, if you are in a reading mood today:

  1. Michael Geist has a column this week on The Legal Limits of Government Tinkering with Technology. It discusses the French legislative proposals to mandate the interoperability of digital products: law which would require Apple to reveal technological specifications to its competitors so that they can design compatible devices, so that iTunes songs would play on anything. Australia makes a particular appearance in the column, with Geist commenting about the TPM Inquiry’s recommendation that the government establish the legal right to break region coding as part of Australia’s new anti-circumvention laws.
  2. James Boyle has a column this week too, on documentary films and the clearance culture. A taste:

    This should be the Golden Age of documentary film, and in some senses it is. A profusion of television channels allows programs that cater to smaller and smaller markets. As viewers, we show an insatiable appetite for biographies of the famous – celebrity infomercials disguised as documentaries – but we also show a taste for quirkier material: … There are documentaries about mental illness and spelling bees and Star Trek fandom – though not all in the same film. And the drop in the price of cameras and editing software, together with the availability of internet distribution, potentially puts a million documentarians on the streets.

    But as Larry Lessig and others have pointed out, documentary film is rapidly becoming the latest victim of the explosion of intellectual property rights I have discussed in these pages. Ironically, the problem here is not a broadening of the rights themselves, but a “clearance culture” that demands licenses for the tiniest fragment of copyrighted material caught in the viewfinder or on the soundtrack of the documentary film.

    Boyle is writing from a US/international perspective. But similar issues were noted in Australia in a recent report for SADC, the Council for Documentary Makers (click here for the BIG pdf). The report, released in November 2005, noted that investors such as the FFC and AFC require a legal opinion that all material used in the documentary has been examined for violation of third party copyright and all necessary clearances obtained. Insurance premiums have also increased. It’s a shame that that same report didn’t look at doing what has been done in the US though – producing a ‘Best Practices’ Model for the Industry that reflects a consensus on what uses are and aren’t acceptable without a clearance. For the most part, the Best Practice Model produced by the Centre for Social Media is a very reasonable set of guidelines on when clearance should be obtained. Something similar could be created for Australia.

  3. The other story doing the rounds of the blogosphere and media at the moment is the Philips Electronics patent application on technology that could let broadcasters freeze a channel during a commercial, so viewers wouldn’t be able to avoid it. See eg Techdirt. 4 brief comments on this:
    (a) oops bad publicity,
    (b) this is proof of one fundamental truth about intellectual property: that having a right doesn’t mean you have a marketable product. What, people are going to buy this? What, if people don’t want to buy it, governments are going to back the right of content owners to impose this technology on people? Even as they try (as our government is at the moment) to ensure that legitimate uses of legitimately accessed materials are preserved?
    (c) There is a move to parse out all the ‘consumer value’ in content and make it something that can be charged for. You can imagine paying ‘extra’ for the ‘right’ to channel surf. There are rights owners who think that is a legitimate method of doing business. Although see point (b) above.
    (d) Philips have apparently commented that they had no intention of using the technology in their products, but ‘Philips wanted to provide the technology and seek the patent only as part of the broader developments within the industry’. How many ways are there to say ‘patent arsenal’?
  4. Remember that story about the chef from Interlude from a couple of weeks ago (you know – chef copies other chefs’ dishes). One of the issues I mentioned there was whether a dish at a top class restaurant could be a ‘work of artistic craftsmanship’. Well, have a look at this opinion piece in the Sydney Morning Herald today on the cake decorators of the Royal Easter Show. Does it change your mind on whether food creations can be works of artistic craftsmanship?


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…)

As reported elsewhere, the Electronic Frontiers Foundation (EFF) have issued the latest update of their ‘Unintended Consequences’ paper. This one is version 4, and entitled ‘Unintended Consequences: Seven Years under the DMCA. (Version 3, issued September 2003, reflected the stories from 5 years). The paper is the output of an ongoing project of the EFF, which:

collects a number of reported cases where the anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA are been invoked not against pirates, but against consumers, scientists, and legitimate competitors.

The paper was cited in a number of submissions in Australia’s own inquiry into TPM laws and exceptions, and in the final report of the House of Reps Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs that did the inquiry.

The report of course details all the well-known stories of use and abuse of the DMCA: the Ed Felten ‘squishing research’ story, the Sklyarov arrest, Lexmark printer cartridges. But more important and more interesting is what’s new, in the last approx 2.5 years? (more…)

I blogged briefly yesterday about the release of the TPM Inquiry Report; it’s been attracting some international interest, and you can see my previous post for links to that commentary.

I’m still trying to digest the effect of the report. But the AFR has a story today (sorry, subscription only) noting that the report may well lead to conflict with the US. And here’s the kicker: our Trade Minister is apparently meeting US trade officials in Washington DC next week to review the first 15 months of the FTA.

What’s the bet he gets a bit of a pounding on the Report? But what to do? The dictates of Australian politics, and international realpolitik may be in conflict here. (more…)

Well, it’s out. Yesterday, the House of Reps Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs released its report on the Review of Technological Protection Measures Exceptions. This is the committee set up to examine what exceptions should be created, as Australia implements Article 17.4.7 of the AUSFTA, which requires Australia to implement stronger anti-circumvention laws, more akin to the US DMCA.

And what a report it is. It has a list of 37 recommendations, many of which are concerned with protecting user interests. More over the fold. (more…)

Rothnie very usefully notes that the Cth has released its draft legislative agenda for the Autumn sittings. On the IP front, it includes a few pieces that I had predicted back when I was crystal ball-gazing in January, plus some other stuff of general interest.

It’s worth noting that none of the IP legislation is marked for introduction and passage in the Autumn sittings (ie, none are ‘starred bills’ on this list). Though, these things can always change… Comments on the particular Bills foreshadowed over the fold. (more…)

…the OECD has just held a major conference on the Future of the Digital Economy. Michael Geist, who attended, has a summary of the ‘big themes: the battle over DRM, and network neutrality.

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