You’ve probably never heard of Fyodor, or I expect you will over the next few days as the mainstream media begins to pick up on a Harry Potter story. Fyodor is a very gifted programmer who created an extremely valuable security analysis program called nmap over 10 years ago, and has been maintaining and improving it ever since. nmap is one of the most widely-used vulnerability scanners, and was even featured in the second Matrix movie (pictures are at the bottom of the home page. Geek trivia: the versions of nmap, the target computer system, and the actual vulnerability are historically accurate.)

What does this have to do with Harry Potter? Well, Fyodor also hosts a number of extremely useful computer security discussion lists on his site. And on one of those, a day ago, someone posting as “Gabriel” posted a message entitled “Harry Potter 0day”. (“0day” is jargon for “zero day”, and is used to denote a file — originally software, but more commonly now films or music — that is released onto the underground scene on the day of its public release. This kind of piracy gives bragging rights to the crackers.) In the post, Gabriel claims to give spoilers as to the ending of the upcoming Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows book. (more…)

The folks over at strangemaps have posted an interesting map of the USA, matching the gross domestic product (GDP) of each individual state with a country with a similarly-sized GDP.

Strangemaps rightly points out that the map presents a somewhat distorted picture; while the state/nation state GDP levels may be similar, the corresponding population levels are not. This means that similar GDP figures do not necessarily indicate similar levels of wealth per capita in the US states and countries compared, although it does rank the size of the economies of US states and the corresponding foreign countries.

The rest of strangemaps is worth a look if you have a moment–there are some very interesting maps there. One of my recent favourites is the Online Communities Map.

And another thing, about the November government draft of a new law for internet censorship (see my previous comments here and Pete Black’s comments here).

One thing that is fundamentally wrong with the government approach is the ‘cover everything, create specific exemptions’ approach. The government proceeds by creating a default position that everyone doing anything online (even vaguely related to commercial life) is covered, and then creates a long list of exemptions so that certain kinds of sites are free from regulation.

Three serious problems with this approach:

  1. The obvious problem: new kinds of sites are automatically censored. Since we don’t know what might happen online next, why make the default regulation? Why not single out the specific things you want to cover?
  2. The ‘bob each way’ approach: for most exempt categories, the definition states that the site must fit the definition AND ‘comply with other requirements in the regulations’. This would enable the government at any time to impose additional requirements on, say, user-generated sites or search engines – by regulations, which can only be DISALLOWED, not amended, by Parliament. Ick.
  3. Lawyers’ paradise. I foresee many arguments by people saying they fit within categories. That’s what always happens when you have a specific list. Again, ick.

Oh, and here’s a question. do you think massive multiplayer online games are covered by this regime?

Ah, censorship. What is it about censorship that brings out the silliness in legislators? Why is it that the idea of censoring the Internet gets people so excited they forget to work out whether the laws are at all sensible?

Crikey has today leaked a November draft proposed Australian Internet censorship law: the Communications Legislation Amendment (Content Services) Bill 2006. I’ve had a look. It’s unbelievable.

Crikey report that the bill has been redrafted. It had better be. Better still would be to forget it altogether. Because this draft doesn’t pass the laugh test. Really. It is inconsistent with fundamental values like freedom of speech and freedom of information; it is broad, draconian, and wouldn’t work, it is completely out of step with the way the Internet works (it seems to require pre-emptive monitoring of content by hosts before it even goes online). I think I’m back in the year 2000 – the last time this same government tried to write an Internet censorship law. More on why this draft is so bad over the fold. [update: Pete Black has also commented, along very similar lines to me, here]

Interesting story hitting the press today on the use of Australia’s notice-and-takedown provisions under the Copyright Regulations.

Volunteer-type hosting service had to take down this site (now on an overseas mirror), after getting a letter from the NSW Minerals Council, alleging infringement of their copyright in the material on this website. More detail on indymedia.

Apparently, despite the requirements under the Copyright Regulations to “insert sufficient information to enable the carriage service provider to identify the copyright material in respect of which the infringement is claimed”, the lawyer letter didn’t attempt to actually state what copyright existed in – telling the ISP to do the identification:

“Content in which our client owns copyright may be viewed on it’s website, We ask that you compare our client’s website to the offending websites referred to above. On comparison, you will see the copyright infringement issues that our client has with the abovementioned websites.”

I’m troubled by this, and not just because I’m pretty sure it is NOT the intention of the regulations that lawyers who write these notices outsource the identification of copyright material to the host or ISP. (“Look at the website”??? please).

I’m concerned because this isn’t one of those cases that notice-and-takedown was meant to be provided for: cases, basically, where someone has put up shamelessly infringing material online with no apparent social benefit. The notice here is aimed at some speech which is pretty clearly political, something which at least arguably would be protected under fair dealing defences of criticism and review and/or parody/satire. This is not why the Safe Harbours were put in there, and arguably, it’s an abuse of the process.

Maybe we need an Australian version of Chilling to track this kind of thing.

UPDATE: Rising Tide, the people behind the website, have issued a counter-notice. Their press release is here.

UPDATE 2: Pete Black has commented. Note also that if you’re a barrister looking for something to do with your time, RisingTide are looking for some pro bono assistance…

Various reactions to the linking is authorisation’ Cooper decision handed down yesterday by the Full Federal Court:

  1. I commented yesterday (summary? ‘troubling’. ‘Have we, or have we not just had a very extended debate about copyright law in Australia? Was not one of the memes in that debate the idea that copyright ought to ‘work’ in a digital environment? Are not search engines, and links, fundamental to the way the Internet and digital environment work? Did all this debate completely pass the members of the court by?’)
  2. Techdirt have commented (‘the idea that it’s the technology creator’s job to build in protections against infringement in how they design a tool is also extremely problematic in placing the burden on the technology makers. It’s a guaranteed recipe for slowing down innovation by putting in place both chilling effects against innovation and additional development costs’)
  3. Boing Boing comments here (‘If that precedent were adopted worldwide, there would be no Google, no Wikipedia, no internet as we know it’)
  4. Black comments here (‘I agree with Kim’)
  5. The Age has the story here.

As you can see, the tenor of this commentary is – ‘shock horror Australian law says linking is infringement; Google’s in trouble’.

Take a deep breath. It’s important to appreciate the limitations of this decision. (more…)

As I anticipated on Friday, and noted earlier today: the Full Federal Court judgment in the Cooper case has been handed down. This is a significant, appeal judgment on the scope of secondary liability in copyright law: that is, when can one person be responsible for the infringing activities of another?

In this case, the Full Federal Court had to consider whether a website, structured and designed both to provide links to infringing MP3 files, and to provide facilities for the easy, automatic upload of such links, could lead to liability for authorising infringement of copyright for the website designer (Cooper), and the hosting ISP (E-Talk) (the website itself, now down, can still be seen (though not used) via the Internet Archive Way Back Machine (the URL was To be completely clear, Cooper was not hosting infringing mp3s. But his website did provide easy access and a central point for placing links.

At first instance, Tamberlin J held both liable – leading to much commentary, particularly on the breadth of the Australian concept of authorisation. If you’re interested in where Australian law on secondary liability for copyright infringement lay prior to this judgment, and how it compares to US concepts, have a read of this article by copyright leading lights Sam Ricketson (australia) and Jane Ginsburg (US).

Summary: in this judgment, the Full Federal Court has pretty much affirmed the reasoning of the Trial Judge. Overall, I find the reasoning pretty troubling in this case: particularly the reasoning of Branson J, which seems to me to endorse a broader view of appropriate liability than the other judgment of Kenny J. I think the judgment shows three things:

  1. That Australian law is out on its own in terms of potential liability for authorisation of copyright infringement. The law is certainly broader – that is, the scope of activities that will potentially lead to liability is wider – than equivalent concepts in the UK (as illustrated in cases like the Amstrad case) or Canada (as illustrated by cases like CCH). And, as Ricketson and Ginsburg point out, it is broader, even, than US law post-Grokster. Anything that would be caught by post-Grokster inducement liability would also be caught by Australian authorisation liability – and then some.
  2. More broadly, the case illustrates that Australian copyright law is increasingly becoming a strange, independent beast. The judgments in this case are truly remarkable for their lack of reference to, or engagement with, recent overseas authority or legal developments. Just remarkable.
  3. Most remarkably to anyone outside that arcane society of the High Priests and Initiates of Copyright: linking to another website that carries an infringing file does carry some legal risk under the reasoning in this case.

Over the fold, I have some more detail. But let me give you a flavour of what I think. As I read the judgment, quite honestly, I was amazed by the absence of any explicit conscious engagement with the real world. To read this judgment – as I said, particularly the broader one of Branson J – you could be forgive for wondering how much the honourable members of the court actually use the Internet. It’s not way the law is described, it is the fact that the judgments can make comments about the potential liability of a website operator for copyright infringement for the most mundane acts – like, oh – linking to another website – without any acknowledgment that that might be an issue, or a problem, or an even slightly undesirable development in the law. (more…)

Judgment by the Full Federal Court is due in the Cooper litigation (first instance judgment here; commentary here, here, here, here) on Monday.  Cooper deals with issues of authorisation of copyright infringement by an ISP, and by a website that linked to infringing MP3 files.

It’s a biggie, in Australian copyright law terms.  When, exactly, does one ‘authorise’ copyright infringement online?  How current is Moorhouse now?  What do all those Digital Agenda Act provisions really mean?  Plus some cross-jurisdictional issues thrown in for fun… and unlike the Kazaa case, this one didn’t settle to the disappointment of IP academics all over the country.

What a lovely (!) Xmas prezzie from the Full Federal Court.

(hat tip for the alert: Starkoff)

[Note: the TPM part of this post has been updated, 15 December 2006]

So, let’s see:

  1. Australia has passed a copyright amendment bill, with lots of changes, particularly digital ones;
  2. The UK has the Gowers Review Report, newly released – with various proposed changes for consideration;
  3. Canada is still waiting, and … (wait for it, wait for it)
  4. Now New Zealand has its own Bill! (big pdf here, text version here)

Guess those Canadians drafting their Bill will be looking at all this with interest.

But let’s have a quick squiz at the new kid on the block, the Copyright (New Technologies and Performers’ Rights) Amendment Bill 2006 (New Zealand).

So what does it do?

Well, for an international audience, it does the WIPO Copyright Treaty and WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty – plus some stuff on exceptions reflecting the current debate over private copying. For an Australian audience, it basically does the Digital Agenda stuff, plus a bit of stuff from some of our more recent amendments.

My summary? This law is a really strange – make that bizarre – mix of weird expansions of rights (particularly, the extension of property rights to webcasters and perhaps beyond – well beyond what the Broadcasters’ Rights Treaty will do), exceptions that won’t work (look at the format-shifting and time-shifting exceptions) – and TPM laws that look much better than anything I’ve seen anywhere else in the world.

And what happens next? Well, as far as I can see, what happens next is that Submissions are due February (late), the Parliamentary Committee (I think, the Commerce Committee) reports in June. So radically unlike us, it seems, NZ like to have time to think.

Over the fold: more detail. (more…)

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…)

And in a completely UnAustralian but interesting note, it appears, from what’s being said on TechDirt, that USTR pressure will see AllofMP3 – the Russian site for cheap music – shut down.

Fascinating quote from Paul Birch, who is a member of the exec committee and main board of the International Federation of Phonographic Institutes (IFPI) as well as the BPI Council and Chairs International:

DRM as we know it is over. There may be Son of DRM but that’s another matter. Right now its dead, the majors are moving towards the new model. The one thing you can be sure of is they will still be at the centre of the world music industry whatever happens. The independents are another matter. As our sector’s share has fallen by almost half in just over twelve months, the new model for us is partnership. It always was, I’m just not sure we got it.

Link to full story here. To really believe this, however, I want to see their head lawyers say this. Because I have this feeling – maybe wrong – that the chief people aren’t necessarily the (only) problem here. When it gets down as far as the lawyers, things can morph.

(Hat tip: Boing Boing)

It’s always interesting when, simultaneously with law reform here, something happens overseas.

At the moment, Australia is drafting its own OzDMCA. The Bill is due to pass Parliament next week. Australia has drafted a series of legislative exceptions to the laws that ban people from ‘hacking’ (circumventing) DRM (technology used by copyright owners to prevent access/copying of copyright works). It has also issued draft regulations that will create more exceptions to the ban on circumventing access controls. Australia has also instituted a system where exceptions will be able to be sought on an ad hoc basis, when a problem arises.

In the US, every 3 years, the Copyright Office considers whether new exceptions to the ban on circumventing access controls (17 USC 1201) is required. Yesterday, US time, the US Copyright Office issued its third rulemaking on ad hoc exceptions to the ban, under US law, on circumventing access controls on copyright works. They’ve made quite a few recommendations. A list, and comments, over the fold. (more…)

For all of you who have been asking, I can now confirm: the Australian Copyright Amendment Bill has been listed for debate in Parliament next Wednesday, 29 November 2006.   So I guess sometime between now and then we’ll see if they’ve made any amendments.

The Final Report of the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs on the Copyright Amendment Bill has now been tabled. The parties were unable to reach a consensus report: we have a majority report (ie, Liberal), a Labor Supplementary Report and Dissenting Comments from the Australian Democrats (Senator Bartlett).

Majority recommendations, and a discussion, over the page. Interesting too, that today we have copyright hitting the SMH front page. (more…)

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