Cyberspace Law and Policy Centre, University of New South Wales
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Monday, April 30, 2007


Copyright and the World Wide Web

House of Commons friend, Dr Matthew Rimmer on international copyright treaties, the access to knowledge movement and more. Listen to the Radio National interview here (fast forward to part 2, the final 15 minutes).


Friday, April 27, 2007


Jimmy Wales Down Under...Chaser-Style

Here in Australia, we have a great tradition of tongue-in-cheek, satirical comedy shows, and The Chaser's War on Everything is one such show. Here at the House of Commons we are very big fans of this show, so when we saw this story we knew we had to blog about it.

As you may remember from an earlier post, Jimmy Wales has this week been touring Australia and speaking at various capital cities (he was also here for our public holiday ANZAC Day - I wonder if he had to look up the Wikipedia page for it?) Yesterday, Wales spoke at the Hilton here in Sydney. And there he was confronted by Andrew Hansen from the Chaser, who had decided that Wales would be perfect for a Chaser segment called "Mr Ten Questions". Wales was asked ten questions in rapid succession, including such gems as "There are 1.7 million articles on Wikipedia; how long did it take you to write them all?" and "How do you feel about the fact that when I looked you up on Wikipedia this morning I changed your page to say that you were a teenage drug lord from Malaysia?"

In being asked the Ten Questions, Wales now joins an elite list, although only one of the Ten Question candidates has ever got all the answers right - actor Anthony LaPaglia.

You can read more at the Sydney Morning Herald article on this here. As the SMH points out, this is quite a minor stunt by the Chaser guys. As the Wikipedia page on The Chaser, these guys were on the official list of potential terrorists, anarchists and protestors "deemed to be a threat" to United States Vice President Dick Cheney on his recent visit to Australia. So it seems that Wales got through this easy!

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Thursday, April 26, 2007


Happy World IP Day!

What are you doing this World IP Day?


Tuesday, April 24, 2007


Legal Framework for e-Research Conference 2007

[This is a guest post, written by Scott Kiel-Chisholm, Project Manager on the OAK Law project and Legal Framework for e-Research project -- Abi]

Wednesday 11 July – Thursday 12 July @ Surfers Paradise Marriott Resort and Spa, Gold Coast, Queensland.

The conference promises to be an exciting and engaging forum for researchers, technologists, and educators with interests and expertise in e-Research who recognise the need to remain current in this rapidly advancing field.

With vast change to the global research sector due to advances in information and communications technology (ICT) e-Research now supports all disciplines from the sciences to humanities.

This conference will examine legal issues facing e-Research both in Australia and internationally such as contractual frameworks, data ownership/access/reuse, privacy, Science Commons and IP licensing. It will provide insights into new ways of thinking about research management in the expanding e-Research environment.

International Keynote Speakers will include:

For more information and online registration go to

The Legal Framework for e-Research project is funded by the Australian Commonwealth Department of Education, Science and Training (DEST), under the Research Information Infrastructure Framework of Australian Higher Education, as part of the Commonwealth Government’s Backing Australia’s Ability – An Innovation Action Plan for the Future (BAA) report.

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Thursday, April 19, 2007


The Rise and Rise of Wikipedia, Open Content and Open Source

A little while ago I made a promise that I would try to restrict my blogging about Wikipedia (see that here), but looking at the April 2007 edition of the online refereed journal First Monday, I felt compelled to blog. The articles in this edition of First Monday focus on a lot of issues that we discuss here at the House of Commons (and, more generally, as part of the Unlocking IP project). Here's a summary:

Wikipedia: Different aspects of Wikipedia are considered in three articles. Dennis Wilkinson and Bernando Huberman assess the value of cooperation in Wikipedia here; Anselm Spoerri has created a qualitative study on the 100 most visited Wikipedia pages between September 2006 - January 2007 here; and Spoerri also asks, in a separate article here, what is popular on Wikipedia and why?

Open Access/Content/Source: Four articles address different aspects of the "open" revolution. After my discussion last week on open source cinema (and Snakes on a Plane!) I found Stefan Gorling's article Open Source Athletes particularly interesting - see that here. Peter Kaufman looks at open content, education and videos here; Paul Stacey look at open educational resources in a global context here ; and finally, Anna Winterbottom and James North combine a lot of issues, discussing the creation of an open access African repository based on Web 2.0 principles here.

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Monday, April 16, 2007


Examining Australia’s Commons

[This is a guest post, written by Professor Graham Greenleaf, Chief Investigator on the Unlocking IP project, co-director of the Cyberspace Law and Policy Centre and co-director of AustLII -- Catherine]

SCRIPT-ed, the peer reviewed online journal at the University of Edinburgh Faculty of Law, has published a Special Issue ‘Creating Commons’(Volume 4, Issue 1, March 2007). It’s based on papers presented at the Conference 'Creating Commons: The Tasks Ahead in Unlocking IP', held at the University of New South Wales, Sydney, on 10-11 July 2006. The ‘Unlocking IP’ project, funded by the Australian Research Council, investigates the rapidly changing relationship between public and private rights in Australian copyright law and practice. It explores options for maximising the ‘unlocking’ of the potential uses of copyright works through sharing and trade in works involving public rights (open content, open source and open standards licensing) and through enhancement to the public domain. The papers in this Special Issue address all four main aspects of the project (i) theories and taxonomy of public rights (Greenleaf); (ii) voluntary licences and their consistency, simplicity, and effectiveness (Bond, Coates); (iii) technical issues in finding works with public rights more effectively (Bildstein); and (iv) incentives to expand public use rights (Clarke) and requirements to protect them (de Zwart). Nicol’s paper deals with aspects of all four topics in relation to patent regimes and biotechnology, whereas the focus of the other papers is on copyright. One common theme in most papers is the national dimension of commons, the question of to what extent commons are created by and situated in the copyright regimes, institutions and practices (including licences) of particular countries. Is the ‘Australian commons’ significantly different in its features than the ‘Scottish commons’, or are both now largely homogenised in an US-flavoured international commons stew?

No surprises that voluntary ‘commons licences’ are the main focus of the Special Issue, so let’s start there. Ben Bildstein in ‘Finding and Quantifying Australia’s Online Commons’ asks some new questions: ‘how are public rights in fact being expressed in the online commons?’, and its converse ‘how can you find works that are part of Australia’s online commons, using current tools?’. He gives us a snapshot of the ‘Australian online commons’ in 2006, stratified by licence types, a baseline study for a longitudinal analysis of the ‘down under’ bit of the commons over the next few years. Watch <> for developments.

Jessica Coates (‘Creative Commons – The Next Generation: Creative Commons licence use five years on’) provides an overview and analysis of the practical application of the Creative Commons licences five years after their launch. She takes a more qualitative approach to analysis of changes in licence use over time, who is using which licences, and their likely motivations for doing so. These licence use trends, she argues, help to rebut arguments that Creative Commons is a movement of academics and hobbyists, and has no value for traditional organisations or working artists.

More questions from Catherine Bond, who asks in ‘Simplification and Consistency in Australian Public Rights Licences’ how voluntary licences can be further simplified to increase both usage and ease of use? She suggests that this could occur through drafting a longer version for potential licensors and a short version for licensees, with simpler language the goal of both. She also questions whether consistency between licences is important, concluding that while it may be desirable and feasible on a national level, but ideological differences may prevent its achievement at the international level.

In the final paper on commons licences, Roger Clarke rejects the application of conventional ‘scarce resource’ economics to content (‘Business Models to Support Content Commons’), and argues that more appropriate forms of economic analysis show the critical role that accessibility to information plays in the process of innovation. He identifies a range of suitable business models for open content to demonstrate that the content commons is sustainable and appropriate for profit-oriented enterprises.

Every country’s constitution is different when it comes to the question of protecting commons against the copyright maximalists. Melissa de Zwart (‘The Future Of Fair Dealing In Australia: Protecting Freedom Of Communication’) concludes that Australia’s judicially articulated implied constitutional guarantee of freedom of political communication is too narrow to act as a control upon copyight law. However the doctrine of fair dealing encompasses elements of freedom of communication and provides some scope for the recognition of such rights under Australian law.

In ‘Creating commons by friendly appropriation’ I argue that the operation of Internet-wide search engines such as Google illustrate an unusual method of creating an intellectual commons, which I call ‘friendly appropriation’. I suggest eight conditions conducive to the successful creation of commons by friendly appropriation, and give some examples of other situations either side of the line. These commons may be rare but are hardly insignificant: a fully-developed theory of intellectual commons needs to recognise them.

Diane Nicol’s ‘Cooperative Intellectual Property in Biotechnology’ rounds off the Special Issue by reminding us that commons are not only about copyright. She explores the range of legal options for dealing with some of perceived problems with the exclusive rights model of patent management in biotechnology. She sets out alternative co-operative approaches including open access models to show their many parallels to issues concerning copyright and commons.

You can watch the Unlocking IP project unfold on its web pages and more entertainingly on the project researchers’ blog ‘The House of Commons’. You’re standing in it.


Friday, April 13, 2007


The Rise of Open Source Cinema

The Sydney Morning Herald yesterday picked up an article from the Telegraph about the rise in "open source cinema", or films where the audience has a certain degree of control over what happens in the story. The term "open source cinema" was inspired, obviously, by open source software.

The prime example of this, of course, is last year's classic thriller Snakes on a Plane (or "SoaP"). New Line Cinema intended to change the name of this film from Snakes on a Plane to Pacific Air Flight 121 but outrage on blogs meant they kept the original title (although really, couldn't execs think of a better title than 'Pacific Air Flight 121'?) Following other demands, a certain line which, because this is a family-friendly blog will not be mentioned, was also inserted into the film. You can read more about open source cinema, and that particular Samuel L. Jackson line, at the Sydney Morning Herald article here.

When we started this blog I never, ever, thought that I would get to mention Snakes on a Plane. The House of Commons is now part of SoaP history.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007


World IP Day on Thursday 26 April 2007

The annual World IP Day is coming up again, this year to be held on Thursday 26 April 2007. The theme for this annual celebration of all things IP is "Encouraging Creativity", which I think is very apt. Last year's theme was "Respect Copyright" (see the Attorney General's Department press release on it here). I respect copyright. It's the Copyright Amendment Act 2006 that I have problems with.

For all our Australian readers, IP Australia has a list of World IP Day Events that can be found here. At the Sydney event one of the seminars will discuss "IP management and licensing". Will this include consideration of open content licensing? Stay tuned.


Thursday, April 05, 2007


Canadian Creative Commons Licence Case

Blogs are currently abuzz with the news that a Canadian photographer, "Mr Spatial Mongrel from Kamloops BC"(aka David Wise) is alleging that Betty Hinton MP is in violation of the Canadian CC Attribution-ShareAlike licence that he released one of his photographs under. Hinton included the photographs in a newsletter and Wise states he would have not permitted Hinton to use the pic as it was not attributed and "because he disagrees with "her campaign and political viewpoint"".

Andres Guadamuz has an excellent analysis of the case over at Technollama, and concludes "I do hope we get a case out of this, as it would be interesting for many different reasons. So, in other words, "fight, fight, fight!"" I have to agree. This type of case, combined with the Viacom v. YouTube case tend to have us intellectual property-types foaming at the mouth, waiting to see what will happen next. Sad, but true.

Hat tip: Technollama and Michael Geist.

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Wednesday, April 04, 2007


Open Access Research and Wikipedia

The March 2007 edition of First Monday contains an article titled "What open access research can do for Wikipedia" by John Willinsky. Willinsky looks at how increasing the amount of external links to open access peer-reviewed journals will 'enrich and enhance' the content available on Wikipedia as well as increase the incentive to publish in open access forums.

The study examines random samples of Wikipedia articles and looks at the number and nature of sources available, open access references and open access potential. Willinsky suggests that "if Wikipedia were to form more of a public access point to this research and if public expectations around this “see for yourself” posture increases, then researchers and scholars may well have a greater incentive to make their published work open access."

Willinsky concludes:

"Wikipedia, in this way, can begin to act as more of a gateway to learning and knowledge, in addition to being a ready reference source. To further link these parallel ways of contributing to knowledge’s public sphere speaks to nothing less than the human right to know what is known. Finding ways of bringing these new approaches to knowledge into closer proximity and association can only strengthen and extend that commons in both its democratic and educational dimensions."
Improving the authority of sources (or putting in sources in the first place) would clearly be a tremendous improvement to Wikipedia. Reinforcing the idea of Wikipedia as a portal to other sources provides even greater incentive for wiki editors to do this. Students and academics can not (or at least should not) cite Wikipedia, and yet, it is often be the first place many people look. It would be very useful if Wikipedia could reliably be used to locate relevant external authoritative literature.

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007


EMI's entire digital collection available DRM-free

British music company EMI has announced that from May, all its songs and music videos will be available DRM-free. From the press release, it looks like they're actually doing this for the increased sales:
"By providing DRM-free downloads, we aim to address the lack of interoperability which is frustrating for many music fans. We believe that offering consumers the opportunity to buy higher quality tracks and listen to them on the device or platform of their choice will boost sales of digital music."
But note the use of the term "higher quality tracks" - you can get the same tracks with a lower quality for a lower price, but with them you still get DRM. So perhaps this is partly just a way to version their products so that they extract the maximum money from consumers: Rich people will buy the expensive DRM-free tracks and not need to share them with their rich friends even though they can, and poor people will buy the cheap tracks, and although they'll want to share them with their poor friends they won't be able to.

Still, this is definitely a (small) win for consumer rights.

(hat tip: TechnoLlama)


Monday, April 02, 2007


"Creating Commons": SCRIPT-ed Special Issue

The House of Commons is very pleased to announce that a special issue of the University of Edinburgh's online, open access law and technology journal, SCRIPT-ed, has just been released, featuring articles from the 2006 Unlocking IP "Creating Commons" conference that was held here at the University of New South Wales. The special issue can be found here.

A big "thank you" must go to the SCRIPT-ed team for their hard work in putting this journal edition together!

(Note: Don't miss out on "Finding and Quantifying Australia’s Online Commons" and "Simplification and Consistency in Australian Public Rights Licences" written by housemates Ben and Catherine and included in this special issue!! -- Abi)

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