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Thursday, October 30, 2008


(Section 32 of) The Copyright Act (is cool)

Bond introduced me to the Copyright Act today (I never studied law, you see). It's got a section in it that's pretty neat from my perspective. Section 32, which I will summarise (this is probably very uncool in legal circles, to paraphrase like this, but I can 'cos I'm not a lawyer):
There is copyright in a work if:
  • The author is Australian; or
  • The first publication of the work was in Australia
Yeah, that's it with about 90% of the words taken out. Legal readers, please correct me if that's wrong. (I can almost feel you shouting into the past at me from in front of your computer screens.)

So to explain a little further, there's copyright under Section 32 in all works by Australian authors, and all works by any authors that publish their works in Australia before publishing them elsewhere. There's also a definition of 'Australian' (actually 'qualified person'), but it's not particularly interesting. And there's some stuff about copyright in buildings, and people who died, and works that took a long time to produce.

Anyway, what good is this to me? Well, it makes for a reasonable definition of Australian copyrighted work. Which we can then use to define the Australian public domain or the Australian commons, assuming we have a good definition of public domain or commons.

It's a very functional definition, in the sense that you can decide for a given work whether or not to include it in the class of Australian commons.

Compare this with the definition ('description' would be a better word) I used in 2006:
Commons content that is either created by Australians, hosted in Australia, administered by Australians or Australian organisations, or pertains particularly to Australia.
Yuck! Maybe that's what we mean intuitively, but that's a rather useless definition when it comes to actually applying it. Section 32 will do much better.

Thanks, Bond!

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Blogger Ben Bildstein said:
For those who are wondering, here's my working definition of 'commons', from my iSummit '08 paper (for footnotes, see the paper):

For the purposes of this paper, I will adopt an intentionally over­broad definition of commons, made up of cut­down points from the Open Knowledge Definition v1.0
1. Access: The work shall be available as a whole and at no more than a reasonable reproduction cost, preferably downloading via the Internet without charge.
2. Redistribution: The license shall not restrict any party from selling or giving away the work either on its own or as part of a package made from works from many different sources. The license shall not require a royalty or other fee for such sale or distribution.
9. Distribution of License: The rights attached to the work must apply to all to whom the work is redistributed without the need for execution of an additional license by those parties.
Blogger Catherine Bond said:
Bildstein: possibly the only person ever to believe that the Copyright Act 1968 'is cool'. It's all well and good when you just read one provision...but you've got about 677 pages to go!
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