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Wednesday, November 29, 2006


A Challenge to Search Engines

The spark

I've recently been redrafting my Unlocking IP conference paper for publication, and it got me to thinking. Google (as did Nutch, when it was online at has a feature for searching for Creative Commons works, as part of Advanced Search. Graham Greenleaf, my supervisor, asked me the other day how they keep up with all the various licences - there are literally hundreds of them when you consider all the various combinations of features, the many version numbers, and the multitude of jurisdictions. Yahoo, for example, only searches for things licensed under the American 'generic' licences, and no others. But Google seems to be able to find all sorts.

Now I'm not one to doubt Google's resources, and it could well be that as soon as a new licence comes out they're all over it and it's reflected in their Advanced Search instantaneously. Or, more likely, they have good communication channels open with Creative Commons.

But it did occur to me that if I were doing it - just little old me all by myself, I'd try to develop a method that didn't need to know about the new licences to be able to find them.

As detailed in my paper, it appears that Google's Creative Commons search is based on embedded metadata. As I have said previously, I understand this standpoint, because it is, if nothing else, unambiguous (compared with linking to licences for example, which generates many false positives).

So if I were doing it, I'd pick out the metadata that's needed to decide if something is available for commercial use, or allows modification, or whatever, and I'd ignore the bit about which licence version was being used, and its jurisdiction, and those sorts of details that the person doing the search hasn't even been given the option to specify.

The challenge

Anyway, the challenge. I have created a web page that I hereby make available for everyone to reproduce, distribute, and modify. In keeping with the Creative Commons framework I require attribution and licence notification, but that's just a formality I'm not really interested in. I've put metadata in it that describes these rights, and it refers to this post's permalink as its licence. The web page is up, and by linking to it from this post, it's now part of the Web.

The challenge is simply this: Which search engines will find it and classify it as commons, creative or otherwise. Will I fool search engines into thinking it's Creative Commons content? Or will they look straight past it? Or will they rise to the challenge and see that what Creative Commons has started is bigger than just their licences, and the Semantic Web may as well be for every licence.

Let's give them a little time to index these pages, and we'll find out.

[post script: I've added a properly Creative Commons licensed page for comparison, that we can use to see when the search engines have come by (this page at least should turn up in search results).]

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Monday, November 27, 2006


iShufflin’ that law through...

Catherine Bond, our resident iPod expert, has written an issues page, "iPods and copyright infringement" and opinion piece, "iShufflin’ that law through..." for online youth organisation, 'ActNow'. Catherine explores how some of the changes brought about by the Copyright Amendment Bill 2006 may impact on under-25-year-olds.

(Pictured: "So Tiny", LarimdaME, available under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License)


Wednesday, November 22, 2006


GPL License Evasion: DRMing up some controversy

After reading some of the commentary out there about GPLv3 you could be forgiven for thinking that the impending release of the new GPL will lead to the destruction of all that is good in the land of programming. With GPLv2 supporters like Linus Torvalds declining to adopt GPLv3 it is hardly surprising that the world (or at least the FLOSS world) is so divided.

So will planes fall from the sky when GPLv3 is released and all software licensed ‘version 2 or later’ finally ticks over into GPLv3 mode? Is GPLv3 part of Richard Stallman's plan to launch a “dictatorship of the programmers”? This housemate thinks not. I was thrust into the world of GPLv3 as part of research for an upcoming symposium (see details below) and it became clear that GPLv3 is the subject of heated debate.

There are a few GPL ‘hot issues’ and DRM is one of the more burning of said issues (if you don’t believe me just look at how red it is on the GPL comments page). What is all the fuss about? The general idea is that DRM is being used to ‘evade’ rights/‘freedoms’ provided under the GPL and this practice is not acceptable. The FSF is sending the message that technical evasion of the GPL is not ok. The message is loud and clear but some have queried if such an endeavour is desirable or even possible. The thing is, not all DRM is necessarily bad (consider the use of DRM for medical equipment or security purposes). Some Kernal developers have questioned if a software license is a sensible place to put all these anti-DRM provisions and suggest that these provisions are included for the service of political ends.

What do I think? I understand that the FSF is concerned about protecting the core freedoms in the GPL however I not sure if protection should be at any cost. It is important to bear in mind that inserting Anti-DRM provisions to protect particular freedoms will always be at the cost of other freedoms. That being said I disagree with people who suggest that GPLv3 “has the potential to inflict massive collateral damage upon our entire ecosystem and jeopardise the very utility and survival of Open Source.”

Final judgment will have to be reserved until draft 3 is released. In the meantime go to the FSF website, read the current draft and make your comments.

Don’t forget to register to attend GPLv3 and Australia, a symposium that looks at GPLv3 issues from a uniquely Australian perspective. We have contributions from Andrew Tridgell and Eben Moglen as well as an excellent panel of expert commentators. More information is available at

(Pictured: "gnu", Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0)

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006


Brian Fitzgerald on the Law Report

Professor Brian Fitzgerald appeared on Radio National's "The Law Report" this morning discussing the proposed copyright amendments, with particular emphasis on the criminal provisions. Hear the program here.

Concerns about the criminal provisions are gaining momentum: the Sydney Morning Herald has published an article online titled "The $65,000 Question: Do you Own an iPod" featuring heavy criticism of the proposed new offences.


Thursday, November 16, 2006


Memo to the Next Google: Don't Set up Shop in Australia

[This is a guest post, written by Sarah Waladan, Australian Digital Alliance -- Abi]

If the Copyright Amendment Bill 2006 is rushed through Parliament, then Australians will be the not-so-proud owners of a complex and inflexible copyright regime that's out-of-date the day it becomes law. Despite what seemed like good intentions, the government has delivered a 200 page mess of changes, with no "fair use" flexibility that U.S. consumers and innovators depend on.

"What's most disturbing is that this Bill is so demonstrably anti-innovation, and for no good reason. U.S. fair use has given businesses like Google, iTunes and YouTube enough room to explore new business models without being suffocated at birth by outdated copyright laws. Without fair use, the next great Internet company is unlikely to come out of Australia," said ADA Chairman, Jamie Wodetzki.

"Even worse, this Bill risks making ordinary Australians criminals, in some cases where they don't even know they're breaking copyright law."

The ADA has called upon the Federal Government to embrace a flexible defence of fair use to ensure that Australia’s copyright laws are credible, relevant, and timely for consumers and technology developers alike.

The Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs published its report on the Bill, which was introduced into Parliament on 18 October and is due to become law in December.

Despite the short time-frame the Committee was required to report within, the Committee recognised a number of serious flaws in the proposed legislation and made a number of recommendations in line with the ADA's concerns.

Amongst the Committee's recommendations, it recommended that ordinary uses by consumers of digital music players be rendered legitimate, that copying for preservation purposes in educational and cultural institutions be legitimised, that the criminal offences provisions be re-drafted to ensure that activities of ordinary Australians and legitimate businesses are not caught, and that contracting out of the exceptions to the TPM scheme be prohibited.

Labor and Democrats Senators recommended deferral of the Bill. In recognising the serious flaws in the consultative process, Labor Senators noted:
"The extremely complex nature of the issues coupled with the extremely short time-frame set by the Government for the inquiry, seriously hampered the Committee in its efforts to comprehensively consider and report on all the evidence before it".
Whilst there is no doubt that an overhaul of copyright legislation is much required, unless the Government heeds the recommendations of this report and allows further consultation in relation to the very complex provisions of this Bill, it will almost certainly fail in its stated aim of bringing our laws in line with rapidly changing technological realities.

This was also released as a statement on behalf of the Australian Digital Alliance (ADA) on 14 November 2006

The ADA is a coalition of public and private sector interests formed to promote balanced copyright law. ADA members include universities, software companies, libraries, schools, museums, galleries and individuals.



Copyright Amendments Debated on Radio National

Why has the Copyright Amendment Bill 2006 been so rushed? Do the amendments go too far? Do the amendments go far enough? What does it all mean?!

These questions and more discussed by Attorney-General Philip Ruddock, Dr Matthew Rimmer, Dr Melissa de Zwart and Dr David Brennan on ABC Radio National show, Australia Talks Back- "Piracy, Consumers and the Digital Age".

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She's a Source-y Girl...

Here at the House of Commons we’re always happy when “Unlocking IP” Partner Investigator, Linux Australia VP, Software Freedom International President and all-round excellent multi-tasker Pia Waugh stops by for a coffee and chat about why open source is so important. That’s why we’re very happy to note that Pia has been dubbed “Linux Australia’s cover girl” by Computerworld. Check out Pia's interview here.


Tuesday, November 14, 2006


Copyright Proposals Fail Test of Brevity, Simplicity and Fairness

[This is a guest post, written by Dr Matthew Rimmer -- Abi]

OVER THE past decade, there have been a number of inquiries into the defence of fair dealing under Australian copyright law.

The current Australian Copyright Act 1968 has a defence of fair dealing, which provides protection against claims of copyright infringement. The defence is limited to particular purposes, such as research and study, criticism and review, reporting the news and use for judicial proceedings. The defence of fair dealing has been questioned for lacking clarity and certainty famously, judges of the Federal Court of Australia could not agree on whether The Panel's use of Channel Nine segments constituted a fair dealing in particular cases. The defence has also failed to keep up with technological and cultural developments.

At long last, the Attorney-General, Philip Ruddock, has introduced the hefty 219-page Copyright Amendment Bill 2006 into Parliament, declaring, ''The Government is committed to dealing with these challenges to copyright head-on, while seeking to also acknowledge the opportunities technology presents. We want laws in place which mean copyright pirates are penalised for flouting the law whilst ordinary consumers are not infringing the law through everyday use of copyright products they have legitimately purchased.'' The legislation has three main features. It introduces a range of miscellaneous exceptions to copyright infringement, provides for the stronger protection of digital copy protection and access codes demanded by the Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement, and will provide a wider array of civil and criminal remedies for copyright owners.

Unfortunately, the Bill will not meet its laudable objectives. The legislation is not ''net neutral'' thus it will apply to particular digital technologies in highly specific ways. It is also drafted in a highly convoluted way which will make it difficult for judges and lawyers to understand let alone everyday consumers, technology developers, and capitalists. It will certainly provide copyright owners with a wide range of civil and criminal remedies in respect of infringement of economic rights and circumvention of ''technological protection measures'', but it does not fix the manifold problems with the defence of fair dealing.

Instead, the Federal Government has created a range of nugatory miscellaneous exceptions, which are narrowly tailored to particular subject matter and technology, and specific purposes and activities. There is limited scope for recording broadcasts for replaying at a more convenient time (time- shifting). There is also a range of technology- specific provisions which allow for the reproduction of copyright material in a different format for private use. In particular, the legislation allows for format-shifting of sound recordings (in other words, space-shifting). However, some commentators have suggested that the tightly worded provisions would not currently cover the everyday use of an iPod or other MP3 player. Moreover, the podcasting and webcasting of radio broadcasts and similar programs has been excluded from the scope of such an exception.

The Government has also proposed a strange, catch-all provision which deals with various miscellaneous provisions. This clause deals with the use of copyright material for certain residual purposes such as non- commercial use by libraries, archives, and educational institutions, and for satire and parody. Such activities are subject to the so- called three-step test under World Trade Organisation regulations. This clause looks unworkable. Consider a cartoonist using a copyright work for instance, wittily depicting Labor Senator Stephen Conroy as a Dalek. The parodist would have to demonstrate that such a use was a special case, that the use did not conflict with the normal exploitation of the copyright work, and that the use did not unreasonably prejudice the interests of a copyright owner. The cartoonist would also have to engage in an interpretation of three-step test under international trade law (which will be difficult, given that there has been only one inconclusive WTO panel judgment on the subject). Such preconditions seem somewhat excessive hurdles for a satirist to have to jump.

Such nugatory, miscellaneous copyright exceptions are a poor substitute to the open- ended, flexible defence of fair use in the United States. The Supreme Court of the US has described the defence of fair use as ''the guarantee of breathing space for new expression within the confines of copyright law'' and called the defence ''an engine of free expression''. Not only does the fair use defence cover particular purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship and research, the US courts have held that it embraces such activities as time-shifting and space-shifting, parody and transformative uses, reverse engineering, and the use of thumbnail images in search engines. The doctrine provides a much wider safe harbour than that offered by the Government's Bill. The Bill needs reform in terms of form and content to meet academic Paul Goldstein's triple bottom line of ''brevity, simplicity and fairness'' and to ensure consumers, libraries, educational institutions, and technology developers enjoy the same freedoms and liberties enjoyed by their US counterparts.

Dr Rimmer is a senior lecturer at the ANU College of Law.

This guest post was first published as a guest opinion in the Canberra Times, 13 November 2006

See the Senate Report on the Copyright Amendment Bill 2006 (just released)

Media commentary on the Copyright Amendment Bill


Monday, November 13, 2006


World Usability Day

[This is a guest post, written by David Vaile -- Catherine]

14 November 2006 is World Usability Day

(Sydney event:
“Every citizen on our planet deserves the right to usable products and services. It is time we reframe our work and look at a bigger global picture. The time is right, the interest is here. 'User friendly' is a common and understandable term; people understand that the world should work well. Now, we have to encourage them to take the message to the streets and say, "We will not stand for it anymore, we want our world to be usable.”

“No more excuses, no more managers complaining about budgets and schedules. No more marketing people selling functionality and power that is more than we need. No more consumers buying things we cannot or do not need to use."

- Elizabeth Rosenzweig, "World Usability Day: A Challenge for Everyone"

This global day of celebration of usability (one of my favourite risk management tools) invites a speculation about usability and our domain of open content licences or free/open source software licences.

We could also ponder the significance of 'open standards' for the development and adoption of intuitive common interfaces or document models. Such commonality and predictability is important for supporting learning and intuitive guessing about how similar things work: you can learn one system and then guess how others work.

See also the current GPL v3 discussions, including inter-version compatibility

This prompts consideration of the negative impact of increasing complexity of the range of licence options (both between licences, and among options for a given licence); and the potential difficulty for neophytes in interpreting how the specific provisions of particular licences will actually operate in the real world (and hence, whether a given licence will do what they hope, or raise other problems).

Users must struggle with a double hit of complexity: in both the law (copyright law is notoriously complex and perverse!?) and technology (a magic black box for many people who just want to get on with it).

It can thus be hard for mere mortals to 'grok' (comprehensively understand) how a given open licence and its technology or content interact.

Finally, it is worth distinguishing between "User-centred design" and "Usability Evaluation" approaches. Both rely on going back to the actual users, not relying on your own guesses. But "Usability evaluation" is more common, and more limited - it can be done any time, and here lies the trap. In practice it is often done at the end of a project, seen merely as part of testing. But this is usually too late, since it is by then too expensive to fix fundamental or conceptual bugs. "User-centred design" however is much preferable, as it starts with the early design stage and goes through, giving feedback at every stage. Done right, it can catch the fundamental errors early enough to change or dump the plan.

Applied to open licences, this might encourage early resort to real world research into what the users actually think, want and need, and what gets in their way, rather than further expert elaboration based on received assumptions from earlier rounds of these licences. Is anyone doing this?


Wednesday, November 08, 2006


Citizendium v. Wikipedia

[This is a guest post, written by Roger Clarke. -- Ben]

Wikipedia is the most prominent of the new-age collaborative information sources. But even its champions acknowledge that there are challenges, and choices to be made.

Larry Sanger, one of Wikipedia's co-founders, has long been dissatisfied with some aspects of its management. He announced on 17 October 2006 his intention to spawn a fork, or republished version, of Wikipedia that is intended to progressively develop higher-quality, more reliable articles.

Sanger envisages the core difference about Citizendium as being a set of editors, with interleaved scope, who will take responsibility for approving articles and amendments to articles. There will be rules that are rather less loose than Wikipedia's (e.g. contributors must declare their 'real names' - whatever that means), 'constables' who will enforce the rules, and a process for appointing and controlling editors and constables. Sanger intends that the appointment process will have collaborative features, but the proposal at this stage is sketchy.

The essence of the debate is whether and how to quality-assure the content of collaborative information sources. The orthodoxy within the open movement is the 'many eyes' principle: errors will come to attention and be addressed, because of the sheer volume of people who are looking and who are empowered to do something about them. The risk of pollution is high, and anarchy looms; but believers say it can be avoided.

Some people are nervous about pollution and anarchy, and uncomfortable with constructive looseness. They prefer layers of controls, and trust in a few rather than trust in the 'great unwashed hordes'. They point to the increasing incidence of Wikipedia pages being frozen for short periods, to let tempers cool. (As this was being written, the Wikipedia entry for 'Wikipedia' was locked, with the explanation "Because of recent vandalism or other disruption, editing of this article by unregistered or newly registered users is currently disabled. Such users may discuss changes, request unprotection, or create an account.").

The distinctions between the two approaches might be seen this way:

QA Principle'Many eyes''A few good men'
QA StyleOpen collaboration among manyAn inner clique of guardians, possibly self-perpetuating
QA ProcessInformal review, by genuine 'peers' as in 'equals'Formal review, by an approved set of 'peers' as in 'peers of the realm'?
Editorial StyleSelf-organising and/or AnarchicHierarchical command and control, but with a collaborative appointment process?

There are many aspects of Citizendium that cast doubt on its ability to survive any longer than its predecessor Nupedia, let alone thrive. Will the elite few prove to be as energetic as the egalitarian hordes? Will the bureaucracy of editorial committees cause even the first few score pages to miss their window of opportunity? Will any of the pages ever score high enough on Google rankings to be noticed? Will the quality difference matter to people, or will the 'good enough' of Wikipedia trump the new approach, just as Microsoft's Encarta, by using some of Funk & Wagnall's middle-brow encyclopaedia, trumped Britannica? Will the inevitable re-branding as something trendier like 'Zendi' be enough to revive interest?

Ultimately, the community will vote with its feet, or consumers will determine what the market wants by paying with their clicks and eyeballs (choose your preferred metaphor). Perhaps the venture's greatest contribution will be to help us learn about quality assurance of open content.

[This was a guest post, written by Roger Clarke. It is available from Roger Clarke's website under either an AEShareNet Free for Education licence or a Creative Commons 'Some Rights Reserved' licence. -- Ben]

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Thursday, November 02, 2006


Update: The Copyright Amendment Bill 2006

It's turning out to be quite a busy period in the Australian copyright arena, with the Copyright Amendment Bill 2006 currently in front of the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee (LACA) and due to be passed by the end of the year. This Bill contains a number of items that will substantially change not only Australian copyright law but also affect the broader copyright commons. It includes new exceptions for format-shifting and time-shifting, changes to fair dealing and the technological protection measure provisions that Australia is obligated to implement under the Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement.

A larger post on the many issues that this Bill creates is forthcoming, but Unlocking IP participants have been very active in government consultation on the Bill. Submissions to LACA were due on Monday 31st October, and the following submissions by Unlocking IP participants can be found here on the LACA website, as listed:

9 - Linux Australia - Unlocking IP Industry Partner

21 - Open Source Industry Australia - Unlocking IP Industry Partner

37 - Professor Graham Greenleaf, Alana Maurushat, David Vaile, Catherine Bond and Abi Paramaguru - Unlocking IP investigators and researchers

46 - Professor Brian Fitzgerald - Unlocking IP Chief Investigator (with Jessica Coates, Nic Suzor, Damien O'Brien & Bjorne Bednarek)

47 - Catherine Bond, Alana Maurushat and Professor Graham Greenleaf - Unlocking IP investigators and researchers

The public hearing for the Bill will take place on Tuesday 7th November, with LACA due to report by 10 November.



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