Sunday, October 19, 2008
The proceedings began on Thursday morning and the Australian Digital Alliance and Telstra were both granted amicus status, the ADA for IceTV and Telstra for Nine Network. David Catterns, the barrister who successfully argued for CAL in the recent CAL v NSW decision appeared for Telstra. The hearing took the better part of Thursday and Friday and the transcript of the Thursday proceedings can be found on AustLII here.
As I said, this is the first of a few posts on the hearing, so I will have more of a discussion up within the next few days.
Thursday, October 02, 2008
Professor Kathy Bowrey, author of Law and Internet Cultures and House of Commons friend (and one of my supervisors), has recently penned an article on these issues, titled 'On clarifying the role of originality and fair use in 19th century UK jurisprudence: appreciating "the humble grey which emerges as the result of long controversy"'. Kathy's article has a slightly different focus: tackling originality in 19th century case law and how this concept developed. The abstract states:
Understanding nineteenth century precedent is one of the more difficult tasks inYou can find it in the UNSW Law Research Series here and for any readers interested in the forthcoming IceTV case this is a must-read. Two weeks to go...
copyright today. This paper considers why the nineteenth century cases and
treatises failed to clearly identify what the author owns of “right” and the
implications for the criterion of originality and for determining infringement
Sir Isaac Isaacs and Lady Isaacs, photographed by Sam Hood, from the collections of the Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, featured on the SLNSW Flickr photostream here, persistent URL here.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Thursday, August 07, 2008
So at the end of my last post I suggested that, if the Government introduced new free use provisions, based on the UK legislative model, to deal with the decision of the High Court in CAL v NSW, then there may be some constitutional problems in doing so. I mentioned two provisions - section 51(xviii), the constitutional copyright power; and section 51(xxxi), the power with respect to acquisition of property on just terms.
Any arguments with respect to section 51(xviii) can arguably be easily dealt with. What's interesting about this power is that, for a long time, it was believed that the Parliament could actually do very little with respect to copyrights because of the narrow interpretation given in the decision of Attorney-General (NSW) ex rel Tooth & Co Ltd v Brewery Employees' Union of NSW  HCA 94; (1908) 6 CLR 469. In that case it was found that the union label trade mark wasn't valid because such marks were not around in 1900, when the Constitution was framed. On that basis, for about eighty-five years it was believed that section 51(xviii) gave the Parliament very narrow power with respect to making IP laws. However, the 1994 decision Nintendo Co Ltd v Centronics Systems Pty Ltd  HCA 27; (1994) 181 CLR 134 and then the subsequent 2000 decision Grain Pool of Western Australia v Commonwealth  HCA 14; 202 CLR 479 - revealed that the HCA believed that section 51(xviii) was quite a wide power, leading to broader concerns that there might not actually be any limits on section 51(xviii).
As such, given this broad interpretation, it would be unlikely that such free use exceptions would fall foul of section 51(xviii), unless some sort of constitutional argument could be raised that the term "copyrights" as it appears in the Constitution requires that remuneration be given to the copyright owner. That, however, would probably cause all types of chaos, and is therefore unlikely. It would be interesting to run though...however, in light of the CAL v NSW decision, I am in no hurry to get another copyright case before the HCA.
It is the second provision, however, that may cause constitutional difficulties for these types of exception. Section 51(xxxi) has occasionally popped up in IP decisions over the last fifteen years (see Australian Tape Manufacturers Association Ltd v Commonwealth  HCA 10; (1993) 176 CLR 480 and Stevens v Kabushiki Kaisha Sony Computer Entertainment  HCA 58; (2005) 221 ALR 448). This constitutional section was actually mentioned at several points in the joint judgment of CAL v NSW:
At : In any event, with an echo of s 51(xxxi) of the Constitution, the Spicer Committee made its recommendation for government use of copyright material in the following terms:
"The Solicitor-General of the Commonwealth has expressed the view that the
Commonwealth and the States should be empowered to use copyright material for
any purposes of the Crown, subject to the payment of just terms to be fixed, in
the absence of agreement, by the Court. A majority of us agree with that view.
The occasions on which the Crown may need to use copyright material are varied
and many. Most of us think that it is not possible to list those matters which
might be said to be more vital to the public interest than others. At the same
time, the rights of the author should be protected by provisions for the payment
of just compensation to be fixed in the last resort by the Court." (emphasis
And then again at paras  - :
The purpose of the scheme is to enable governments to use material subject to copyright "for the services of the Crown" without infringement. Certain exclusive rights of the owner of "copyright material" are qualified by Parliament in order to achieve that purpose. It is the statutory qualification of exclusive rights which gives rise to a statutory quid pro quo, namely a statutory right in the copyright owner (here a surveyor) to seek "terms" upon which the State (excepted from infringement by the legislature) may do any act within the copyright (s 183(5)) and to receive equitable remuneration for any "government copies" (s 183A). With reference to the use by the Spicer Committee of the constitutional expression "just terms", it may be added that CAL conducted its case in this Court on the footing that the statutory scheme afforded "just terms" to copyright owners.
Given that CAL proceeded on the basis that the Crown use of copyright statutory licence scheme was "just terms" under section 51(xxxi), then it is arguable that removing this financial aspect may put such a provision in breach of section 51(xxxi). This may particularly be the case if the government continued to charge for the use of the survey plans. Certainly, as the law currently stands, it is available to the Government to use the fair dealing and other exceptions provided in the 1968 Act (in fact, as noted in the CAL v NSW joint judgment, if these provisions apply, then the statutory licence scheme doesn't - see paragraph .) However, would the inclusion of provisions that give the government a free pass to use copyright-protected works created by others, for fulfilment of their statutory obligations and what reasonably flows from those obligations, be valid under section 51(xxxi)?
In conclusion, although I have dedicated a whole chapter in my doctoral thesis to determining the boundaries of the copyright power of the Constitution and the concurrent effect on the Australian public domain, I will admit that future intellectual property cases are less likely to be concerned with section 51(18) and more to do with section 51(31). And, to end on a lighter note, that makes The Castle required viewing for anyone involved in intellectual property!
In the course of the decision, the High Court referred to the position in other jurisdictions with respect to Crown use of copyright works. It cited the UK position under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (UK) and the different types of what it would describe as "free use provisions" under that law. These are exceptions to infringement on the grounds of different types of public administration:
- Section 45 -"Copyright is not infringed by anything done for the purposes of parliamentary or judicial proceedings" and the reporting of such proceedings;
- Section 46 - "Copyright is not infringed by anything done for the purposes of the proceedings of a Royal Commission or statutory inquiry", its reporting and the issue to the public of a report of the Royal Commission or statutory inquiry;
- Section 47 - Where material is open to public inspection due to a statutory requirement or statutory register, copyright is not infringed in a literary work in certain cases and not including the issuing of the work to the public; however pursuant to section 47(2) "copyright is not infringed by the copying or issuing to the public of copies of the material, by or with the authority of the appropriate person, for the purpose of enabling the material to be inspected at a more convenient time or place or otherwise facilitating the exercise of any right for the purpose of which the requirement is imposed" etc.
- Section 48 -The Crown can communicate material to the public in the course of public business, and "copy the work and issue copies of the work to the public without infringing any copyright in the work."
- Section 49 - Material comprised in public records can be copied and supplied to any person without infringing copyright.
- Section 50 - "Where the doing of a particular act is specifically authorised by an Act of Parliament, whenever passed, then, unless the Act provides otherwise, the doing of that act does not infringe copyright."
Even without that distinction, however, another argument rears its head: the constitutionality of introducing such free use provisions. Two sections of the Australian Constitution would arguably be involved: section 51(xviii), which gives the Federal Parliament the power to make laws with respect to "Copyrights, patents of inventions and designs, and trade marks"; and section 51(xxxi), which also provides power to the Federal Parliament to make laws with respect to "The acquisition of property on just terms from any State or person for any purpose in respect of which the Parliament has power to make laws."
I have just realised that this post is getting very long, so it is going to be split into two. Constitutional analysis forthcoming!
Thursday, July 31, 2008
Whenever a new judge is appointed to the High Court, questions always arise as to the types of decision that judge is likely to make. In a Sydney Morning Herald article on the new appointment political commentator Mark Davis notes that Justice French was one of the judges who recently struck down the World Youth Day laws passed by the NSW Parliament that made it illegal to "annoy" pilgrims at that event. However, as the article also notes, "he was also one of the judges who upheld the Howard government's move in 2001 to block refugees on the the Tampa entering Australia."
Being a keen copyright researcher, however, I was interested in the previous copyright law decisions of the new Chief Justice - and there are quite a few. Indeed, Justice French has sat on many of the significant copyright decisions of the previous decade. Justice French was one of the members of the Full Federal Court who in Kabushiki Kaisha Sony Entertainment v Stevens found that the access code in Sony Playstation games and the BootROM of the Sony Playstation constituted a technological protection measure that was circumvented by Stevens' mod chips , a decision that was subsequently overturned by the High Court. His Honour also was one of the members of the Full Court in Cooper v Universal Music Australia, where authorisation of copyright infringement via online downloading was found to occur.
To me, however, the most interesting judgment of Justice French was in Venus Adult Shops Pty Ltd v Fraserside Holdings Ltd. This was a joint judgment written by French J and another member of the Federal Court who has subsequently been appointed to the High Court, Justice Susan Kiefel. To cut a long copyright case short, in that decision the Full Federal Court considered the infringement of copyright in a number of pornographic films. As part of their decision, French and Kiefel JJ considered whether copyright could be denied to such materials based on their illegality (adult films are actually illegal in most Australian jurisdictions), or whether the remedies available to the plaintiff could be limited on the basis of their content. On the former argument, their Honours stated that (at para. 84):
There is therefore no statutory basis under existing Australian copyright lawIt will be interesting to see, should a relevant case arise in the future, public policy will play any role in determining the remedies in those decisions.
for a finding that copyright does not subsist because the content of the
relevant work or subject matter offends against community values or standards.
That is not to say that such considerations may not inform the discretion to
award particular classes of remedy but the scope of such an exercise of
discretion would seem to be narrow.