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Thursday, March 29, 2007


GPLv3- Third Discussion Draft- Out Now

Available here.

Stay tuned.

(Post script: See this piece on, with some views from Stallman, Torvalds and Novell
-- Ben.)

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007


Open Content Licensing: Cultivating the Creative Commons

[This is a guest post, written by Jessica Coates, Project Manager, Creative Commons Clinic, ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Innovation at Queensland University of Technology --Catherine]

Queensland University of Technology and Sydney University Press have announced the publication of a new collection of papers on open access, Open Content Licensing: Cultivating the Creative Commons.

Edited by Professor Brian Fitzgerald, Open Content Licensing: Cultivating the Creative Commons brings together papers from some of the most prominent thinkers of our time on the internet, law and the importance of open content licensing in the digital age. Drawing on material presented at the Queensland University of Technology conference of the same name in January 2005, the text provides a snapshot of the thoughts of over 30 Australian and international experts – including Professor Lawrence Lessig, Futurist Richard Neville and the Hon Justice Ronald Sackville – on topics surrounding the international Creative Commons, from the landmark Eldred v Ashcroft copyright term decision to the legalities of digital sampling in a remix world. It also provides case studies of a number of Australian-based open access projects, including AESharenet and the Youth Internet Radio Network, and a detailed section on policy and law relating to computer games.

In line with the book’s theme, both the hardcopy and the electronic version have been published under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivatives licence.

Hardcopies can be ordered from the Sydney University Press here, while a PDF of the entire work can be downloaded for free from the QUT e-Prints Archive here. Individual chapters are also available for free electronic download here.

For more information on the book and its contents, visit the Creative Commons Australia page on this new work here.


Tuesday, March 27, 2007


Citizendium Up and Running

Citizendium beta is now open for general reading. The project attempts to rectify some of the quality issues associated with Wikipedia.

Read more about about Citizendium in this guest post by Roger Clarke.

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ReJoyce! 'Fair Use' Prevails!

It's amazing how quickly some things can change and it's definitely a good sign when things do. In his latest, very recent 2007 article, R. Anthony Reese discusses the "new unpublished public domain" and, among other issues, discusses why, for example, some authors or their families might want to keep unpublished material private.

One of the examples that Reese gives is the estate of James Joyce, who died in 1941. Stephen Joyce, James Joyce's grandson and the controller of his literary estate, is notoriously protective of any unpublished material relating to his grandfather and family and, as this material remains under copyright law, it is easy to control publication of the material. One of the reasons Reese identified for Stephen Joyce being so protective of this material is because of its references to James Joyce's daughter Lucia, who spent some time in a mental asylum.

Between the publication of Reese's article, however, and the last few days, this situation has changed.

Back in 2003, Professor Carol Shloss was working on a biography of Lucia Joyce, titled "Lucia Joyce: Dancer in the Wake", when she was contacted by Stephen Joyce and told she was not permitted to quote from a considerable number of materials still controlled by the Joyce estate. Shloss was forced to make significant alterations to her text and delete many of her opinions conforming to the amount of quotation the Joyce estate considered 'fair use.'

In 2005 Shloss made a private supplemental website containing supporting material which she was forced to remove from the book. The Joyce estate threatened legal action against Shloss if she made the website publicly available. But would the Joyce estate succeed with said legal action?

Enter the Stanford Centre for Internet and Society's "Fair Use Project" ('FUP'). The FUP, which began in 2006, provides legal support on projects designed to "clarify, and extend, the boundaries of 'fair use' in order to enhance creative freedom." In June 2006 FUP filed a lawsuit on behalf of Professor Shloss, in order to establish her right to use "copyrighted materials in connection with her scholarly biography of Lucia Joyce."

Last week, the Joyce estate agreed to enter into a settlement agreement permitting Professor Shloss to publish quotations relating to James and Lucia Joyce electronically, and in a book. This is a particularly significant outcome given the situation identified earlier. In the words of Shloss:

"I fought not just for Lucia and Joyce, whose words had to be taken out of my book, but for the freedom to consider what happened to them and for the freedom of others to respond to my ideas. 'Fair use' exists to foster this liveliness of mind; its measure is in transformation not in a restrictive counting of words. Everyone who worked on this case understood that something far more important than my particular book was at stake in the fight. It was an honor to work with them." (source)

Sources/I Want to Learn More!

Stanford Scholar Wins Right to Publish Joyce Material in Copyright Suit Led by Stanford Law School's Fair Use Project,

An Important Victory For Carol Shloss, Scholarship And Fair Use, Anthony Falzone, CIS

R. Anthony Reese, "Public but Private: Copyright's New Unpublished Public Domain" Texas Law Review, Vol. 85, pp. 585 - 664 (particularly pages 618 - 619), 2007.

Matthew Rimmer, "Bloomsday: Copyright Estates and Cultural Festivals" Script-ed, Vol. 2, No. 3, pp. 383-428, September 2005

Post written by Catherine Bond and Abi Paramaguru.

(Pictured: "365 - Day 32 - Happy Birthday James Joyce!", daryldarko, available under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 License)

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Monday, March 26, 2007


Licensing and Flickr

A picture attached to my previous post about orphan works inspired this response on Twitchgamer (and subsequent dialogue in the comments section) about how to deal with public domain works on Flickr .

Take a look at this follow up post about some of the difficulties associated with licensing on Flickr.

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Thursday, March 22, 2007


The Mystery of Morris Iemma's MySpace Page - Solved!

Earlier this week I posted my thoughts about Australian politicians and MySpace - see it here. I lamented the fact that there are a lot of Australian political profiles on MySpace, but none of them appeared to be legitimate and I appealed to Australia's politicos to let us know if their MySpace page was real.

One of these, current NSW Premier Morris Iemma's, appeared to be - if only for the fact that it didn't contain a great deal of content. Sadly, however, the case has now been cracked and the site revealed to be a sham.

Andrew Donnellan kindly emailed me and pointed out:
"According to 'Morris Iemma's' MySpace profile:
Status: Single
Zodiac Sign: Aquarius
Children: I don't want kids
46 years old"
Andrew then revealed the problems with these details:
"Firstly, he is married. Secondly, his star sign is Cancer, according to the DOB on wikipedia. Thirdly, he has four kids. And he'll be 46 in three months time...he's still 45."
The sad conclusion to this is that appears MySpace is lost to Australian politicians forever...


Tuesday, March 20, 2007


Australian Politicians and MySpace

Over at Freedom to Differ, Peter Black has blogged about the social networking site MySpace creating a page about politics in the lead-up to the 2008 United States Presidential election. Read more at Freedom to Differ here. Here in New South Wales we're having a state election on Saturday. All this talk of elections, combined with Pete Black's post, made me wonder: do the candidates for Premier in our state election - Morris Iemma and Peter Debnam - have MySpace pages?

The answer is yes and no. Morris Iemma does, and it can be found here. Peter Debnam does not. However, as I started to click my way around MySpace, I became transfixed by the number of political profiles on MySpace. Unfortunately, it soon dawned on me that I couldn't tell which MySpace profiles were legitimate and which were not. This led me to my next question: are any of the Australian politician MySpace pages legitimate?

I can't imagine that ex-Australian Prime Ministers Bob Hawke or Paul Keating would really be workin' MySpace. The same goes for former Queensland Premier Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen, given that he passed away in April 2005. However, some of the pages - like those for Queensland Premier Peter Beattie and Victorian Premier Steve Bracks look kind of legitimate. Until you start to read the details.

MySpace came under fire only a short while ago, in January this year, after Justice Michael Kirby, of the High Court of Australia, was the victim of a particularly defamatory, fake MySpace profile. See the Sydney Morning Herald article on this here. According to the SMH story, the site was available for about 15 months.

Now, I'm all for social networking, commons-based peer production, expressing yourself, etc. In Australia, we also have a great tradition of parody and satire, with shows like The Panel and The Chaser "sending up" pretty much everything. However, there is something that troubles me about individuals creating non-legit MySpace pages about Australian politicians (and other individuals, actually) purporting to be the real deal and then putting up defamatory, offensive, and untrue content. In my opinion, if the author admits that the site is a parody (or it's an obvious parody) and denounces any affiliation with the individual in question, then that's more acceptable. However, when people see content on these fake pages that indicates to them the site is real, that's more problematic. When the site defames the person in question and the user can't tell if the page is legitimate, that's even worse.

This weekend, my fellow New South Welshmen and I will take to the polls to fulfil our democratic duty. In return, I'd like to pose a challenge to all Australian politicians: if your MySpace page is legitimate, please let us know! I realise that Morris Iemma probably has a bit to do with an election in five days and everything, but at least one person (i.e. this blogger) will sleep better knowing that MySpace is still being used for some good...

Author's Note: A big thank you to my housemate Abi for her assistance with this post!

(Pictured: "Join Myspace", Randall Munroe - via his excellent webcomic xkcd, available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 license)


Wednesday, March 14, 2007


What does this data mean?

In June last year, I presented a paper at the Unlocking IP conference, part of which involved collecting data on Australian usage of Creative Commons licences. For example, here's the data I collected in June 2006, organised by licence attribute:
It shows that most people are using the Non-Commercial licences and restricting derivative works.

That was all well and good, but then this year I revised my paper for publication in SCRIPT-ed. I wasn't going to gather the data all over again, but then I remembered that Australia now has version 2.5 Creative Commons licences, and I guessed (correctly) that the numbers would be big enough to warrant being included in the paper. Here's the data from March 2007:

Matrix subtraction

I admit that it looks about the same, but it gets interesting when you subtract the old data from the new data, to find the difference between now and mid-2006:
So here's my first conclusion, from looking at this graph:

The jurisdiction/version dimension

Another way of looking at the data is by jurisdiction and version, instead of by the licences' attributes. Here's the data from June 2006, organised this way:
First, note that there was no data (at the time) for Australian version 1.0 and 2.5, and US version 2.1 licences. This is simply because not all jurisdictions have all licence versions.

Some people might be wondering at this stage why there are Australian web sites using US licences. I believe the reason is that Creative Commons makes it very easy to use US (now generic) licences. See, where the unported licence is the default option.

The previous graph, also, is not particularly interesting in itself, but compare that to the current data:

The move away from Australia version 2.1

You can see straight away that there's lots of change in the 2.1 and 2.5 version licences. But take a look at the change over the last 9 months:
Can that be right? Australian usage of both US and Australian version 2.5 licences has increased as expected (because they are current). But why would the usage of Australian 2.1 licences go down? And by more than the amount of new usage of Australian 2.5 licences? Here are some possibilities:
Does anyone out there in reader-land have any other ideas? Do you know something I don't, which would cause such a significant (apparent?) drop in the usage of Australian version 2.1 Creative Commons licences?


For the record, here's how I collected the data. I did the following Yahoo searches (and 36 others). For each search, Yahoo tells you "about" how many pages are found.

Last word

You can see a graph of the change in usage for every licence for every version and both jurisdictions here.

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Viacom vs. Google, YouTube

"Media conglomerate" Viacom has filed proceedings in the District Court for the Southern District of New York against Google and YouTube for what it describes as "massive international copyright infringement." Read more in the Sydney Morning Herald article here.

According to reports, the commencement of the lawsuit by Viacom comes after a "great deal of unproductive negotiation" with Google and YouTube. Let's see if more productive negotiations can occur now, or whether the case makes it before the courts. Sadly, it's cases like this which makes us copyright law-types wait with baited breath.

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Monday, March 12, 2007


Fairest Of Them All?

Ah, those Americans. They know how to create fantastic abbreviations that really illustrate the point of legislation introduced into Congress. What does the 'USA PATRIOT' in USA PATRIOT Act stand for? You can tell just from that abbreviation that the Act will be about strengthening America (it is, take a look at the Wikipedia page on it.)

So when I saw that the FAIR USE Act of 2007, still at Bill stage, had been introduced into Congress, I knew it was something to do with copyright. And because it was about copyright, I knew that I should get blogging on it.

I do know, however, that not everyone who reads this blog is a lawyer, or familiar with the American legal doctrine of fair use. So let's recap, shall we...

What is fair use? Fair use is a United States legal doctrine that permits certain usage of copyright material, without requiring the user to go seek the permission of the copyright owner. It's been invoked in a number of cases; probably the most famous was the Betamax case where the US Supreme Court held that the taping of TV shows was a fair use. Basically, it's a non-specific doctrine that a lot of otherwise copyright-infringing activities will be caught under. Given that Australia has specific exceptions, it's broader than any permission we enjoy.

What's the FAIR USE Act then? "FAIR USE" in this context stands for the Freedom and Innovation Revitalising U.S. Entrepreneurship Act. You can find it here on the Electronic Frontier Foundation's "Support the FAIR USE Act" page.

Huh? Precisely. A few years ago, the United States Congress introduced the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). This Act introduced new provisions regarding the circumvention of technological protection measures (unauthorised keys to digital locks, basically). Under this legislation, a lot of unfair cases emerged. Even though it was supposed to be aimed at copyright infringement, it was used in cases where the plaintiff sought to protect garage door openers and printer cartridges.

And that's what the FAIR USE Act seeks to address? In part, yes. This Bill aims to rectify some of the problems caused by the provisions of the DMCA. A few years on and the community has now seen the impact of these sections on fair use of copyright material. The FAIR USE Act seeks to regain the "balance" of owner and user rights by introducing a number of changes:

1) new sections aimed at limiting damages for secondary liability for copyright infringement

2) expressly codifying (ie, putting into statute) the finding of the Court in the Betamax decision - people won't be liable for copyright infringement "based on the design, manufacture or distribution of a hardware device that is capable of substantial, commercially significant non-infringing use."

3) DMCA amendments - there are a few here:

First, the Bill includes reference to the six classes of "non-infringing uses"
specified by the Librarian of Congress. These uses would permit behaviour that
would normally have violated section 1201(a)(1)(A) of the DMCA, which states
that "no person shall circumvent a technological measure that effectively
controls access to a work protected under this title." On 27 November 2006 the
Librarian of Congress announced that these six classes would not be subject to
the prohibition against circumvention in s 1201(a)(1)(A) for three years. Find
out more here.

Second, the Bill also specifies a number of additional, non-infringing acts of
circumvention. My favourite is the section that will make an act of
circumvention legal where it is "carried out solely for the purpose of gaining
access to one or more works in the public domain that are included in a
compilation consisting primarily of works in the public domain." Admittedly,
this provision is somewhat narrow in its scope, but it does address the issue of
TPMs attached to works that are either in the public domain or enter the public
domain and become unusable due to their digital lock.

When will the Bill be passed? The Bill was introduced into Congress on 27 February 2007, by Rick Boucher and John Doolittle (don't you just really want to go to Virginia after seeing Boucher's site?). Zoe Lofgren is also an original co-sponsor of the Bill. See the Boucher press release here. Doolitle and Lofgren also shared responsibility for the introduction of the still-to-be-passed Public Domain Enhancement Act to the United States Congress following the Eldred v Ashcroft decision.

Americans must be rejoicing! Some are, some aren't. The Recording Industry Association of America has come out against the FAIR USE Act, arguing that it would "legalise hacking" and "would effectively repeal the DMCA." See more of their criticisms here.

I live in Australia. Why's this relevant? Because we just introduced our very own Oz-DMCA. Didn't you read Weatherall's Law? Pursuant to the provisions of the Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement, Australia was obliged to enact TPM provisions substantially similar to the sections of the DMCA. These were formally introduced as part of the Copyright Amendment Act. So it's time we all start drafting legislation in an attempt to convince our legislature to amend these provisions.

My contribution? Building on the American model, I propose the iPODS Act - the Interactive Products for Open Digital Sources Act. I am unsure what this would propose, but I wanted to use the word "iPod" in my Act title.


Friday, March 09, 2007


Wikipedia In the News (Yes, Again...)

It seems that you can't open a newspaper or look at a news site (or browse the House of Commons, actually) without stumbling across yet another item on Wikipedia. In this week alone we've covered Jimmy Wales coming to Australia in April and the emergence of Conservapedia. Previous posts illustrate that we're always tapping away at our keyboards about the good, the bad and the just plain scary in wiki-based online encyclopedias.

Yesterday the Sydney Morning Herald covered the ongoing controversy of a former college student who posed on Wikipedia under the name of "Essjay" as a professor of theology. Further problems emerged when a "high-ranking member of the Wikipedia bureaucracy" (can we be more specific please?) vouched for "Essjay"'s false credentials. See it here.

I think it's safe to say that, of the commons and copyright-related content that we cover here at the House of Commons, Wikipedia attracts the most attention from the media and the general community. The Copyright Amendment Act held its own last year, but now that's passed and we're all too busy format-shifting CDs onto our iPods to pay it much attention anymore. Creative Commons appears every so often - however, you are much more likely to find criticisms of Creative Commons in academic journals and literature as opposed to the public, general media-based airings of the problems with Wikipedia.

Late last week, I was sent a link to another Herald piece, this one about the Associated Press banning stories on Paris Hilton, "barring any major events", which I guess means the usual trio of pregnancy, marriage, or, um, death. Perhaps here at the House of Commons we should impose the same ban on posts about Wikipedia for a while...barring the usual trio of potential plagarism, spoofs or new wikis of course.

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Tuesday, March 06, 2007


Wales Down Under

Jimmy Wales, a founder of Wikipedia, will be visiting Australia in April and keynoting a series of seminars titled "challenging how knowledge is created". Issues discussed will include the culture of the online community, opportunities for collaborative learning and Creative Commons, the public good and barriers to knowledge sharing.

More details about the seminar available here.

Read more about the impending visit of Jimmy Wales in "Wikipedia founder to visit Australia".

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Monday, March 05, 2007


Attack of the Wikis

One of our favourite topics here at the House of Commons is Wikipedia and anything Wikipedia-related. I'm a huge cinema buff and I can spend hours looking at film pages on Wikipedia - pretty much every time I see a movie now I go to the Wikipedia page afterwards for interesting tidbits (and occasionally when I have no idea what the movie actually meant, like Mulholland Drive, and Star Wars Episode 2 - Attack of the Clones). Friends have told me that I link to Wikipedia pages just a little bit too much when I blog. However, it seems as though there are many new, peer-produced, wiki-based, encyclopedias popping up all over the Internet that I may be able to link to in the future!

One of these new pages is Conservapedia, which is getting a lot of coverage from both the media and my fellow bloggers (see Andres Guadamuz at Technollama's post here and Pete Black at Freedom to Differ here - both of these are worth a read). Conservapedia is, according to its founders, a "'much needed alternative to Wikipedia', which they say is 'increasingly anti-Christian and anti-American'." (From Bobbie Johnson's article here on the Sydney Morning Herald site). Conservapedia was created in November 2006 and today it boasts over 1 million page views.

Notable pages include its current "Most Viewed Entry": Examples of Bias in Wikipedia, where one example given is that Wikipedia uses British, rather than American, ways of spelling words. In my opinion, I don't think I ever noticed the way certain words were spelt on Wikipedia - as an Australian, we're used to seeing words spelt both ways (is it licence or license?) I just looked for "Colour" on Wikipedia and the page on colours - ie, red, purple, pink etc - is given the heading 'Color'. So it seems that not all Wikipedia pages adopt the British way of spelling. It’s also interesting to look at the Wikipedia page on Conservapedia – see it here – I get the feeling that the Wikipedia and Conservapedia pages on each other will just continue to grow.

While on the topic on other online, peer-produced encyclopedias, there is also Uncyclopedia, the "content-free" encyclopedia, although be warned that it's not for the easily offended. In that vein, I will not be linking to any of Uncyclopedia's pages. Still, it does provide a few giggles and is an excellent example of commons-based peer production - the hours that contributors have spent building up some of the pages is amazing. (There is some interesting coverage on Oscar Wilde - but in order to avoid any kind of legal liability or just a stern telling off from the Powers That Be I will not be linking to that site).

Aside from telling you about interesting pages, however, there is one interesting issue about these new sites. Wikipedia is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation Licence. Another wiki, CreationWiki, is also licensed under the GNU FDL. Uncyclopedia, though, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 licence.

The differences in licences don't matter - I think it's great that everyone's getting into sharing content and licensing products of wikis. Conservapedia, however, does not appear to be licensed. In my opinion, this is something that should be re-thought - everyone knows the best way to get the word out there is licensing!

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Controversial Use of Notice-and-takedown Provisions

Anti-coal group, Rising Tide, created a website sending up an advertising campaign by NSW Minerals Council. In response, the Council has used copyright laws to close the website.

Read more in "Industry closes anti-coal website".

Analysis by Kimberlee Weatherall (via Lawfont) is available at "Notice and takedown, Australian style".

Update: Commentary by Peter Black (Freedom to Differ) is available at "Copyright, Speech and the NSW Minerals Council".

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Friday, March 02, 2007


Open Source ;)

Some Friday source style.

(Pictured: "Open Source", Randall Munroe - via his excellent webcomic xkcd, available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 license)

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Upcoming Copyright and Commons Events

It's been quiet at the House of Commons for the last week but Abi, Ben and I have been busy working on projects that we'll be able to let you know more about in the coming weeks. For now, here's a couple of events that both Australian and international readers may be interested in:

First, the UNSW Centre for Continuing Legal Education is holding an 'Intellectual Property - Digital Copyright Update' seminar on Tuesday, 13 March, from 8.45 am - 1pm in Sydney. The Cyberspace Law and Policy Centre's own co-director (and House of Commons regular) David Vaile will be chairing the event. Topics everyone's favourite piece of 200-page legislation - the Copyright Amendment Act 2006; online copyright liability following the Cooper decision; and Sony v Stevens and TPMs. Register here.

Second, the University of Western Ontario is hosting two copyright and commons related conferences on 9 and 10 April 2007. The first conference is "Free/Libre and Open Source Software (FLOSS) as Democratic Principle" and scheduled speakers include the free software guru himself, Richard Stallman and Unlocking IP investigator Brian Fitzgerald. The second conference is "Digital Copyright in a User Generated World", which includes talks on open access, virtual worlds, blogs and copyright reform. Find out more here.

So many copyright events, so much copyright legislation, so little time...

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