Cyberspace Law and Policy Centre, University of New South Wales
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Wednesday, September 10, 2008


Software patents in the Review of the National Innovation System

The Review of the National Innovation System came out yesterday, commissioned by the Department of of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research. See all the details, including the full report, at

I'm currently preparing a paper on the Open Source software developer's perspective on software patents (with a friend of mine, Owen Jones, who has the real expertise in patents), and so naturally I was interested in what the expert panel had to say about software patents. I have to admit I haven't thoroughly worked through it yet, but here is a paragraph that I think is very interesting, from the initial overview chapter:
"Intellectual property is also critical to the creation and successful use of new knowledge – particularly the 'cumulative' use of knowledge as an input to further, better knowledge. In this regard, particularly in new areas of patenting such as software and business methods, there is strong evidence that existing intellectual property arrangements are hampering innovation. To address this, the central design aspects of all intellectual property needs to be managed as an aspect of economic policy. Arguably, the current threshold of inventiveness for existing patents is also too low. The inventive steps required to qualify for patents should be considerable, and the resulting patents must be well defined, so as to minimise litigation and maximise the scope for subsequent innovators." (page xii)
I think this is a great admission. First, it recognises that we need to ensure that our current innovations can contribute effectively to future innovations. Then it acknowledges that patents are granted too easily, and specifically mentions software patents as an area where more harm is being done than good.

Maybe I'm reading a little too much into it. Or maybe I'm just reading between the lines.

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Thursday, August 14, 2008


US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit upholds free copyright licence

From the Creative Commons blog:

THE “IP” Court Supports Enforceability of CC Licenses
Brian Rowe, August 13th, 2008

The United States Court of Appeals held that “Open Source” or public license licensors are entitled to copyright infringement relief.

The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC), the leading IP court in the United States, has upheld a free copyright license, while explicitly pointing to the work of Creative Commons and others. The Court held that free licenses such as the CC licenses set conditions (rather than covenants) on the use of copyrighted work. As a result, licensors using public licenses are able to seek injunctive relief for alleged copyright infringement, rather than being limited to traditional contract

Creative Commons founder Lawrence Lessig explained the theory of all free software, open source, and Creative Commons licenses upheld by the court: “When you violate the condition, the license disappears, meaning you’re simply a copyright infringer. This is the theory of the GPL and all CC licenses. Put precisely, whether or not they are also contracts, they are copyright licenses which expire if you fail to abide by the terms of the license.” Lessig said the ruling provided “important clarity and certainty by a critically important US Court.”

Today’s ruling vacated the district court’s decision and affirmed the availability of remedies based on copyright law for violations of open licenses. The federal court noted that ignoring attribution requirements contained in the license caused reputation and economic harm to the original licensor. This opinion demonstrates a strong understanding of a basic economic principles of the internet; attribution is a valuable economic right in the information economy. Read the full opinion.(PDF)

Creative Commons filed a friends of the court brief in this case. Thanks to all the cosponsors Linux Foundation, The Open Source Initiative, Software Freedom Law Center, the Perl Foundation and Wikimedia Foundation. Significant pro bono work on this brief was provided by Anthony T. Falzone and Christopher K. Ridder of Stanford’s Center for Internet & Society. Read the full brief.

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007


Laptops Going Linux

Lenovo, the world's no. 3 computer maker (although on Wikipedia it says it's the no. 4 maker, but I digress), has announced that it will be releasing a line of Linux-based personal computers. Read more in the Sydney Morning Herald report here.

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Monday, August 06, 2007


How to "Trim Down the Obesity of Copyright Law"

I've been absent from the blogosphere for a little while as a I toiled away at my thesis and as more and more chapter deadlines loom this will sadly continue to be the case (although those readers who remember my Wikipedia blogging obsession may be happy about that development). But in other news...

On the Creative Commons blog, Mike Linksvayer has some interesting comments on a new paper, "Preliminary Thoughts on Copyright Reform" by renowned copyright scholar Pamela Samuelson, and the title for this post comes from Samuelson's paper (at p. 7). As Samuelson rightly notes, copyright law is becoming far too long, confusing, irrelevant and outdated, to the point where "virtually every week a new technology issue emerges, presenting questions that existing copyright rules cannot easily answer" (at p. 1).

Samuelson proposes a model law for a new United States Copyright Act, but also rightly notes that major copyright reform in the United States is highly unlikely to happen any time soon, what with the Iraq war, tax reform, global warming etc being more pressing for the US Congress than copyright issues. This is true, although, for example, extraditing individuals for copyright infringement does have wider ramifications for civil liberties, as readers familiar with the case of Hew Griffiths know.

About a fortnight ago now, the Cyberspace Law and Policy Centre and Linux Australia co-hosted a Law Tech Talk, given by Maureen O'Sullivan. As Abi reported earlier here, Maureen is from the University of Ireland, Galway, and she gave an excellent presentation titled "The Democratic Deficit in Copyright Law: A Legislative Proposal." Maureen's talk centred on the introduction of a Free Software Act (see version 4 of the Act in SCRIPT-ed here) which would operate to protect free software and free/open source software licences.

So it seems that concurrent to the increase in voluntary licensing practices to release copyright content, there is also an growing push towards legislative change as well, either tackling the bulk of copyright law in one go, as Samuelson has suggested, or by an amending act, as O'Sullivan has proposed. Sadly, however, in an Australian context, legislative copyright reform appears to be a long way off. If anything, as shown by the Copyright Amendment Act 2006, our copyright law will only continue to grow in length and bulk, rather than be substantially reformed.

On a final note, we have a tradition here at the House of Commons of publishing the most spot-on comments made about copyright law (remember Senator Andrew Bartlett's "congealed wobbling blob"?) So, finally, here's Samuelson's take: "...the current statutory framework is akin to an obese Frankensteinian monster" (at p. 6).

Not only is that very apt, but it also managed to integrate a reference to a public domain character as well. Nicely done!

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007


Software Freedom Day 2007

Last year the House of Commons housemates took part in Software Freedom Day 2006, which, as the name suggests, is a day dedicated to the celebration of software freedom and the promotion of all things free and open source software. This year Software Freedom Day will be held on Saturday 15th September and for those interested in finding out more - either as a participant or attendee - see the Software Freedom Day 2007 page here.

83 teams worldwide have already registered, in places including our hometown of Sydney (with the team headed up by Software Freedom International President and House of Commons friend Pia Waugh), Nigeria, Mexico, Peru, Italy, Scotland and the United States (just to name a few - and with the deadline to register not until 31 July expect that list of locations to grow!)

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Monday, June 04, 2007


GPLv3: Last Call Draft Released

The 'last call' draft for GPLv3 has just been released. If you are interested in commenting, then do it quickly: interested parties have 29 days from 31 May 2007 to provide feedback to the Free Software Foundation, with the absolutely final GPL version 3 due out on Friday, 29 June 2007.

If you are looking for further information, then see:

FSF Releases 'Last Call' Draft of GPLv3 press release here
Richard Stallman's essay on 'Why Upgrade to GPL version 3' here
The Actual Last Call Draft here


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Thursday, May 17, 2007


Pia Waugh on "How Open is FLOSS?"

House of Commons friend and open-source guru Pia Waugh has a very interesting post on her blog, titled, "Openness- How Open Is FLOSS?". Pia asks some very good questions about the "openness" of FLOSS, leading to the creation of the "5 Foundations of 'Open'" by Pia and her husband, Jeff Waugh. For anyone interested in FLOSS this is a great post to read and it's also worth having a look at the comments section, where there's some great analysis of these types of issues too.

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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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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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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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Friday, January 19, 2007


So long, Tux

Well, all good things must come to an end and 2007 must too. There has been a definite open source-vibe on the University of New South Wales Kensington campus this week and so, to commemorate this event, I've compiled a list of 5 ways to tell that has arrived...

1) Everyone you see is carrying a laptop...

2) Said laptops and laptop bags are covered in stickers, displaying the owner’s software affiliations

3) You see more people wearing baseball caps and t-shirts with obscure software company logos (as opposed to the more usual obscure streetwear logos often found on a university campus)

4) Occasionally, from anywhere in the campus, you hear Jeff Waugh proclaim, "Good afternoon, freedom lovers!"

5) Instead of people on the bus coming to university talking about what happened on last night's episode of Lost or 24, the conversation is abuzz about Tivoisation: a big bad or something that's actually pretty useful?

And to finish off, in the words of Jeff Waugh, so long freedom lovers! I'll be posting about the excellent Open Day within the next couple of days (stay tuned for Robopuppies, segways and how to solder using a toaster oven in order to create your own aircraft - kids, don't try this at home.)

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