Cyberspace Law and Policy Centre, University of New South Wales
Unlocking IP  |  About this blog  |  Contact us  |  Disclaimer  |  Copyright & licencsing  |  Privacy

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


Thrilling Goings-on in the Wonderful World of Copyright Law

The ACTA saga continues, with the Australian Digital Alliance's press release zeroing in on the impenetrable veil of secrecy surrounding negotiations of the proposed Agreement. This follows media coverage, articles, and blog posts - including those on The Patry Copyright Blog, LawFont and House of Commons - debating just how sketchy the few available details about the Agreement are, and wide appeals to allow some level of public consultation on the Agreement in Australia.

In other copyright news, the Attorney-General's Department has tabled its Review of Sections 47J and 110AA: Copyright Exceptions for Private Copying of Photographs and Films. The Review recommends that no amendments be made to the provisions for the time being, gesturing to the relatively short period of operation of the provisions as one reason for this.

In the UK, 'Mr Modchips' has survived a copyright stoush, with judgement in his favour handed down by the Court of Appeal (Criminal Div). It was found that any alleged copyright infringement would have taken place prior to use of the modchips. It will be interesting to see whether the judgement prompts legislative action, as occured following the decision of the somewhat similar case of Stevens v Sony in the High Court of Australia.

Labels: , , , , , ,


Creating an Australasian Commons, Part One

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to get up to Brisbane for the day for the 'Building an Australasian Commons' conference, held at the State Library of Queensland and run by the unstoppable Creative Commons Australia team. This is only one post that I will be doing about the events of the day, but I wanted to share some videos that Dr. Tama Leaver, a lecturer at the University of Western Australia, was kind enough to share with us. These two videos were created by students as part of one of Dr. Leaver's communications courses. I think both videos are fantastic and I encourage readers to take a look!

uwacomm2203, 'Citizen Journalism v Traditional Journalism', licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-ShareAlike licence.

citizenjournal, 'Something Old, Something New', licensed under a Creative Commons Attribition-Non-Commercial-ShareAlike licence.

I don't think I've laughed so hard since Justice Kirby mentioned Paris Hilton in the High Court.

Labels: , ,

Friday, June 13, 2008


Creative Commons Australia version 3 Licences - Open for Comment

I realise that the majority of readers aren't licensing nerds like myself (or perhaps you are, it would make sense to be on this blog if you are), but in recent news Creative Commons Australia has just released drafts of the forthcoming v3.0 licences. Two drafts are available for comment, the Attribition and Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike licences.

On the CCau website it is stated that:
Getting everyone's feedback on the v3.0 licences is particularly important
because we've decided to depart slightly from our traditional drafting approach.
Rather than writing the licences as a straight translation from the Unported (ie non-country specific) licences provided by Creative Commons International, we've instead decided to base them on the excellent licences produced last year by our friends in New Zealand, which they in turn based on the England and Wales licences. The great thing about these licences is that they're written in plain English rather than legalese - which means they're much easier for non-lawyers to understand.

Comments are requested by 1 August 2008, to either or the CCau mailing list. I imagine that myself and my colleagues on the 'Unlocking IP' project will submit comments on the new licences, and we'll cross post any comments here at the House of Commons too.

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, June 12, 2008


Gettin' Medieval On Yo' iPod

The prospect of wanton destruction or confiscation of iPods, laptops and other devices suspected of containing copyright-infringeing content has become increasingly real, with news of a proposed international agreement on copyright policing surfacing recently.

A leaked 'discussion paper' on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) on Wikileaks, since taken up by other bloggers and mainstream news outlets, has inspired exasperation and outrage in many quarters. It is expected that a draft Agreement will be tabled at the upcoming G8 summit in Tokyo, and it reads like a copyright law wish-list drafted by large record companies and movie studios.

Under the proposed Agreement, border security and other such officials in member States would have powers of search and siezure, where they have a suspicion - and mere suspicion would likely be enough - that an electronic device holds content that might infringe copyright. As Graeme Philipson (The Age) points out, because the discretionary power would be in the hands of security guards and acted upon immediately, there would be no involvement of courts or lawyers, and little chance for appeal. The copyright owner would be removed from the process of suing for infringement upon some evidence that it has actually occured.

In effect, a bunch of security guards at an airport could decide they 'suspect' you of being an infringinger and annihilate your iPod or laptop. (The fact that this could herald a whole new genre of 'profiling', a la 'terrorist suspect of middle-eastern appearance', is another matter. How do you spot a copyright infringer?)

Of more concern is that, because the security officials would also be able to determine what is or is not 'infringing', already-weak fair use/fair dealing type provisions that still offer at least some protection would arguably go out the window completely. Just picture trying to argue with humourless airport security staff that you're carrying a disk full of burned content to use for the purpose of parody. After a long-haul flight. With the prospect of all your other devices being searched as well. And then confiscated because they don't like your attitude.

Obviously, the only people who think this sounds like a great idea have been some US-based record and movie companies. Apparently, they have been throwing 'contributions' at US Congress members to 'encourage' sponsorship of the proposed Agreement.

This all has the vague stench of cultural oppression about it - it's a piece of paper being promoted by culturally and economically dominant groups. It empowers state servants to act outside the law and any kind of due process, make judgements about those crossing a border, and perform random search/seize/destroy activities without room for argument. The US will undoubtedly be urging other nations to sign up (or else). Finally, the fact that the Agreement has been drafted with little public discussion and largely kept secret does nothing to allay the sense that there are some serious problems with the way that copyright 'patrolling' is heading.

Labels: , , , , , , ,


iTunes U: Enemy of Open Content?

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

Some months ago, I participated in a public panel session run by a
university department. It was video-recorded. The university
requested from all participants a copyright release for
"non-commercial educational purposes - for example, a teaching
resource for undergraduate and postgraduate students, and public
access to short excerpts via our web site". All participants signed
that release. So far so good.

Today, I was approached by the university in question to sign a much
more substantial 'Presenter's Deed of Consent'. It included "a
non-exclusive, royalty free, worldwide, irrevocable, and perpetual
licence to Exploit", including right to sub-licence. There was no
mention of constraint to non-commercial uses only, i.e. it authorises
commercial uses. (Added to that, "The Presenter is not entitled to
claim a fee or royalty for the use of the Recording by the University
or its sub-licensees").

The reason for this dreadful, old-fashioned proprietorial form of
consent transpired to be that the University is participating in the
about-to-be-launched iTunes U Oz version.

iTunes is an Apple product and service to provide paid access to
music, etc. iTunes U is an extension that enables universities to
put material up on that site:

Again, so far so good, because multiple channels for discovery of and
access to content is a good thing.

Here comes the rub.

The iTunes conditions appear to preclude the University from making
material placed on iTunes U subject to an open content licence. It
appears that the conditions apply not only to the version available
through iTunes, but also to versions available through other channels.

(Note: I briefly looked on the iTunes site for information on the
conditions and licences, but had little success).

That would mean that anything that a university makes available
through iTunes is locked-down and proprietised. And the new breed of
profit-oriented universities will find that just too tempting, and
will seek to 'extract rents' as economists are wont to say, or
'charge serious money' as the rest of us do.

Unless and until the iTunes U conditions are found to be different
from what I fear (or they are changed), content-producers who want
their materials to be openly available need to refuse permission for
them to be made available through that channel.

Dr Roger Clarke

Labels: , , ,

Friday, June 06, 2008


Pirates on the high ©s

News from the treacherous waters of online piracy:

The Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft will reportedly be launching a new campaign aimed at school-aged children and teens this month. In an effort to sell the idea that downloading copyright films and television shows is a no-no, children and young people will be encouraged to produce their own films, thereby convincing them that shelling out for a movie ticket and overpriced popcorn is a sign of moral fortitude (and isn’t that the goal of every teenager?).

On the one hand, educating young people about the intricacies of copyright law, and how this affects a fairly normalised behaviour among their peer-groups, is a positive step. Ever-increasing attempts by industry bodies to crack down on online 'piracy', including leaning on ISPs to start dispensing ‘justice’ on industry’s behalf, means that knowing about the potential risks is the best way to enable young people to make informed choices about their online activities.

AFACT also points out that it wants to convey how damaging to local film-making and industry investment illegal downloads can be. This blogger has some sympathy with that point – life in the film and TV industry, particularly in Australia, involves constant scratching for cash and other resources, for all but the biggest players. Continuing investment in the local industry (at all levels) depends on the commercial success of what are usually very expensive, highly speculative undertakings. While arguably it is foreign product that is usually downloaded, the overall profitablity of the sector (here and in the US) impacts how local studios and projects are funded. For example, dwindling attendance numbers at cinemas (which are never the most profitable businesses to start with) leads to rising ticket and concession prices, which leads to fewer screens showing a narrower range of product, leading to greater difficulty in getting local content out to the audience, equalling low regard and even lower funding for Australian film and tv.

On the other hand, however, allowing the message to be watered down to the equivalent of a patronising ‘Stealing is Bad’ is unlikely to move the target audience. Following the laughable In Tune campaign featuring successful musicians discussing life as a struggling artiste, it can only be hoped that the AFACT campaign demonstrates a more sophisticated understanding of its target audience and their concerns. The more emphasis on fact and an understanding of copyright law (and potential risks involved in its contravention), the better.

Still on the subject of incurring the wrath of copyright owners – in May, a US jury handed down a guilty verdict against a man charged with conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement. 25 year-old Barry Gitarts was allegedly a member of Apocalypse Production Crew, a group specialising in making pre-release copyright recordings available online as MP3 files for download. Typically, the RIAA could barely contain its glee at the verdict. The potential sentence for the unfortunate Barry includes up to 5 years imprisonment, a fine of $250,000, and making full restitution.

In this blogger's opinion, Gitarts would make a far more compelling poster-boy for any anti-piracy campaign than the Veronicas.

Labels: , , , ,


The very few domains with the very many licensed pages

'nuff said

Labels: ,

Thursday, June 05, 2008


Technical problems at The House of Commons

We're having one slight technical problem at the moment. Individual post pages for the current month are giving 403 forbidden errors. We're looking into it. The effected pages are and, and I guess the one for this post, too (click the post title, above, to see if it works).

Of course, you can still read everything on the main page.


Tuesday, June 03, 2008


C.C.T.V. Eye

Manchester band The Get Out Clause has been grabbing news space in recent weeks for their creative approach to living in the modern surveillance state that is the UK.

Being poor musicians with nary a cent to fund a flashy music clip, the band simply set up their gear around the city streets of Manchester and performed for the omnipresent CCTV cameras. Cunning use of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (UK) delivered the requested footage into their hands, which they edited into a clip now doing the rounds of Youtube and various news outlets.

Aside from putting a new spin on the notion of creativity and the 'commons', this raises a few interesting copyright questions. Housemate Abi and I, via our friend Google, did some cursory investigation: according to info on the Office of Public Sector Information site,
'The supply of documents under FOI does not give the person who receives the information an automatic right to re-use the documents without obtaining the consent of the copyright holder.'
This, however, applies to information listed in a publication scheme, and a quick look over the FOI Act itself suggests that it doesn't contain express provisions about copyright in material acquired under the Act.

So does the UK government (or whoever it outsources the CCTV collection to) own the original footage - does that footage even fall under the Copyright Act in the UK?? Does any licence to 'use' the acquired material also include rebroadcasting - and where would fair dealing fit in here? Might a similar film-making method work in Australia (although use of street CCTV is somewhat less prevalent, at least for now)??

All food for thought, especially for those more au fait with UK law than this blogger...

It remains to be seen whether CCTV DIY will take off as something of a trend - if it does, brace yourselves for an onslaught of arty types 'performing' in front of a public wall or train ceiling near you.

CCTV may have more to answer for than we first thought...

Labels: ,


Conferences in Brisbane

Two upcoming conferences taking place in Brisbane this month (particularly good news for those wanting to escape the winter further south):

'Building an Australasian Commons'
, Creative Commons Australia
Tuesday 24 June 2008
8.30am-5pm @ State Library of Queensland, South Brisbane - and free!

'Creating Value: Between Commerce and Commons', ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation
25-27 June 2008
Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre

Labels: , ,


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?