Exciting CC development: ABC releases landmark archival footage under Creative Commons licence

This is really great stuff.  The CC-licensed news clips include:

Intriguingly, the CC licensed clips also include a 1974 interview with the late sci-fi writer and author of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Arthur C. Clarke, in which he predicts what we now know of as the internet.

All clips are available via Wikimedia Commons and the ABC Open Archives.

For more detail, see the Creative Commons Australia blog post.

Upcoming DC copyright event: “Supreme Court Confidential – Costco Wholesale Corp. v. Omega”

For the copyright nerds in DC –

On 8 November 2010, the DC Chapter of the Copyright Society of the USA is sponsoring a program called “Supreme Court Confidential – Costco Wholesale Corp. v. Omega”.  Attendees will hear a post-argument recap from people involved in the case.  Costco Wholesale Corp v. Omega considers copyright’s distribution and importation rights and the first sale doctrine, and is predicted to be one of the most important copyright decisions of the year.

The event will take place at George Washington University Law School.  Students and government attorneys are free.  For more information, and to register, see the DC Chapter events page.

Second annual ISHTIP workshop

On Friday 24 September, I attended the second annual workshop of the International Society for History and Theory of Intellectual Property (ISHTIP) at American University.  The theme of the workshop was ‘Geographies of Intellectual Property’, and it featured an interesting array of speakers and participants.  I was thrilled to meet Professor Michael Carroll, whose work on open access I have followed for a long time (primarily through his blog).

The workshop program and abstracts from the papers presented are available on the ISHTIP website.  I found all of the papers presented to be compelling, and some challenged me to think differently about the scope of copyright law.  Probably most controversial for me and some of the other attendees schooled in Anglo-Australian or Anglo-American copyright law was the paper by Maurizio Borghi and Stavroula Karapapa from Brunel University, West London, titled, “Invisible Geographies: Copyright and the Unexplored Land of Non-Display Uses”. In this paper, the authors considered whether engaging in non-display uses of a copyright work (such as when the work is mined for data – Google are experimenting with this in their Book Search Project) violates the “intimate purpose of the work” as envisaged by the author.  The authors approached the question from a personality theory view of copyright, arguing (I think) that there should be rights to enable an author to prevent their work from being “recontextualised” by a computer (e.g. through data-linking) at an “invisible level” outside of the control of the author.  Giving an author almost complete control over how their work is understood and contextualised by users did not sit particularly well with me, but then again I am rather partial to Barthes’s “Death of the Author” theory.

There was an interesting discussion surrounding Katie Scott’s paper, “Mapping Plagiarism in a Regime of Privacy”, where Will Slauter made the point that confusion between copyright and plagiarism often has people confusing authorial rights with economic rights – i.e. they are affronted when they have spent considerable effort and creativity in producing a work and then someone takes or uses that work without even acknowledging its source.  In this way, Slauter argued, people sometimes treat attribution as if it would solve the revenue problem.  He questioned whether people focus so strongly on social norms surrounding plagiarism because they are afraid to address the revenue problems directly.  I think that this question could just as easily be turned around – in copyright debates, do we sometimes miss that it is attribution that people really care about?

Finally, I very much enjoyed the audience discussion of metaphors in intellectual property (brought up by Jeongoh Kim’s paper, “Cultural Geographies of IP: Turnpikes and Copyrights”). Peter Decherney jokingly called metaphors “the quicksand in the jungle of intellectual property” and noted that metaphors are often not helpful in discourse about IP.  For example, agricultural metaphors (about reaping what you sow etc.) have been known to distort conversations about copyright protection and fair use.   But metaphors are, in fact, hard to escape.  Perhaps the best thing we can do is to acknowledge that metaphors are not neutral but are ideologically and culturally charged.  It may be that slippery metaphors can help us to understand the slippery nature of intellectual property, so long as we continue to strive to give our metaphors more nuance.

I’m off to Washington DC…

This Friday 9 July, I’m off to Washington DC. I will be studying at Georgetown University Law Center for the next 12 months. I’m not sure how much I will be updating this blog during that time. It may be a lot; it may be a little. I hope to write about some of the interesting things I learn in my studies at Georgetown. These are unlikely to be directly relevant to developments in Australia, but hopefully you will find them interesting too. For those who want to keep in contact, I will still be using my gmail account.

Free information session on copyright and contracts

This Wednesday evening, Professor Brian Fitzgerald of QUT Faculty of Law and I will be giving a free information session for Youth Arts Queensland (YAQ) on copyright, contracts and the arts.

Details are below.  If you are an artist (whether visual, theatre, literary or other) and would like to learn more about your rights in your work, please come along (even if you have missed the RSVP deadline).

After they say ‘Yes: FREE Contracts Information Session for Artists

Brisbane / Wednesday, 9 June 2010 67pm

Youth Arts Queensland is delighted to be hosting an upcoming legal and contracts advice session for emerging artists, in conjunction with the QUT School of Law.
Artists spend a lot of time working on getting the next gig, theatre season or commission. But understanding the contract you need to sign when you’ve got it is just as important. If you’ve ever wanted to know more about the world of contracts and legal terminology come along to this FREE information session presented by Professor Brian Fitzgerald and Ms Kylie Pappalardo from the QUT School of Law.
Please note this session is designed for emerging artists.

Date: Wednesday, 9 June 2010
Time: 6pm – 7pm
Venue: Youth Arts Queensland Training Room, Level 3, Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts, 420 Brunswick Street Fortitude Valley
Cost: FREE

Places are limited and bookings are essential. To book, send an email to [email protected] no later than 12pm Monday, 7 June 2010. Please include your name, your position and the name of your organisation. If you have special requirements (i.e. physical access, alternative format for workshop material), please let us know before the event.

For more information or if you have any questions, contact us on (07) 3252 5115 or email [email protected].

My working paper on the Google Book Settlement

In 2009, as part of my LLM at QUT, I wrote a paper on the Google Book Search Project and Settlement, and its implications for Australian authors and users.  The danger with writing topical papers, however, is that things have a way of changing rather rapidly.  The original Settlement Agreement, which my paper covered, was not approved and in November 2009, the parties released an Amended Settlement Agreement.  While I had good intentions of updating my paper properly to incorporate the Amended Settlement Agreement, I’ve been absolutely flat out for a number of months and life/work shows no sign of slowing down in the near future.  So I have decided to upload my paper to QUT ePrints.  The paper is in its original form, but I have included an Appendix that details the significant changes between the original Settlement Agreement and the Amended Settlement Agreement.  I hope that with taking the Appendix into account, the paper may still be of use and interest to some people.  You can access the paper from: http://eprints.qut.edu.au/31879/.

Here too is the slide set that I used last week, when talking to students in the QUT/WIPO LLM course on the Google Book Settlement: Google book search settlement_Kylie Pappalardo.ppt

Telstra Corporation Limited v Phone Directories Company Pty Ltd [2010] FCA 44

In the 2009 IceTV case, Gummow, Hayne and Heydon JJ of the High Court of Australia remarked that there was a need to treat with caution the emphasis in Desktop Marketing v Telstra upon labour and expense per se when determining whether copyright subsists in a compilation. Following this decision, I expected that we would see, in the next few years, some judicial consideration of the High Court’s remarks in a subsequent compilation case. I didn’t expect that it would come so soon or be so on point.

Telstra Corporation Limited v Phone Directories Company Pty Ltd [2010] FCA 44 is an important decision because not only it is the first major case to consider subsistence of copyright in data compilations since IceTV, but it reconsiders the question of whether copyright subsists in Telstra’s Yellow Pages and White Pages telephone directories.

Some background

Desktop Marketing Systems Pty Ltd v Telstra Corporation Ltd [2002] FCAFC 112 considered the question of whether Telstra held copyright in their Yellow Pages and White Pages directories. The court approached this as a question of originality – were the directories (which were essentially just compilations of name, address and phone number data, arranged alphabetically) sufficiently original to attract copyright protection? The court held that copyright can subsist in a compilation produced as a result of the exercise of skill, judgment or knowledge in the selection, presentation or arrangement of materials or where substantial labour or expense has been invested in collecting the materials included in the compilation (at [409]). Telstra had undertaken substantial labour and incurred significant expense in compiling the Yellow Pages and White Pages directories, and therefore owned copyright in the directories as compilations.

In my blog post on the IceTV decision in 2009, I wrote:

Since Desktop Marketing v Telstra, there has been significant uncertainty around a user’s ability to reproduce material contained in a copyrighted data compilation because the test for originality was so wide. This meant that a copyright holder could assert such control over a database that at times they appeared (and often purported) to be able to control use of what essentially amounted to mere facts and information in circumstances where copyright law should not extend. The [IceTV decision], while not bringing us in line with the US decision of Feist v Rural Telephone Services in regards to whether copyright should subsist in a compilation that lacks creative input, at least takes a step in the right direction of tightening the originality threshold to provide that reproduction of the purely informational material within a compilation will not constitute a substantial part sufficient to give rise to an infringement claim.

The Telstra Corp v Phone Directories decision

In Telstra Corp v Phone Directories, the question again arose as to whether copyright subsists in the White Pages (WPDs) and Yellow Pages (YPDs) directories.

Gordon J considered that the proper starting point was the Copyright Act ([7]) and that the completion of four steps could assist in determining whether copyright subsists in a work ([28]):

  1. Identify the work
  2. Identify the author/s of the work
  3. Determine when first publication of the work occurred
  4. Identify how the work is original.

Her Honour placed significant weight on the necessity of being able to identify an author before copyright can be held to subsist in a work. She states at [20], “The centrality of authorship is self evident”. She then sets out ten points in support (and elaboration) of this statement. I reproduce these in full because they are central to Justice Gordon’s reasoning in this case:

  1. The “theoretical underpinnings” of the Copyright Act strike a balance between rewarding authors of original literary works against policy considerations concerning “the public interest in maintaining a robust public domain in which further works are produced”: IceTV [2009] HCA 14; 254 ALR 386 at [24] and [71]. The genesis of copyright legislation in England was to protect the rights of authors of work from the reproduction of their work without their consent: see IceTV [2009] HCA 14; 254 ALR 386 at [25].
  2. The Copyright Act fixes on the author: ss 32, 33, 35 and 127 of the Copyright Act; IceTV [2009] HCA 14; 254 ALR 386 at [22][25] and [96]-[97] and Vawdrey Australia Pty Ltd v Krueger Transport Equipment Pty Ltd (2009) 83 IPR 1 at [147] per Lindgren J.
  3. The author is the person or persons who bring the work into existence in its material form: s 10(1), 31 and 32 of the Copyright Act and IceTV [2009] HCA 14; 254 ALR 386 at [26], [33] and [98]-[99]. To be considered as an author of a literary work the person or persons must have exercised “independent intellectual effort” (IceTV [2009] HCA 14; 254 ALR 386 at [33] and [48]) and / or “sufficient effort of a literary nature” (IceTV [2009] HCA 14; 254 ALR 386 at [99]).
  4. The Copyright Act provides for the possibility of joint authors: s 10(1) of the Copyright Act and IceTV [2009] HCA 14; 254 ALR 386 at [23] and [100]. A “work of joint authorship” requires that the literary work in question “has been produced by the collaboration of two or more authors and in which the contribution of each author is not separate from the contribution of the other author or the contributions of the other authors”: s 10(1) of the Copyright Act; see also Levy v Rutley (1871) LR 6 CP 523 at 529 per Keating J; Cala Homes (South) Ltd v Alfred McAlpine Homes East Ltd (No. 1) [1995] FSR 818 at 835-836 per Laddie J; Prior v Lansdowne Press Pty Ltd (1975) 12 ALR 685 at 688 per Gowans J.
  5. The Copyright Act also provides for compilations – the bringing into existence of a literary work which gathers and organises material from various sources: IceTV [2009] HCA 14; 254 ALR 386 at [72], quoting William Hill (Football) Ltd v Ladbroke (Football) Ltd [1980] RPC 539 at 550 per Diplock LJ. The fact a work is a compilation will itself inform the issues of authorship to be considered: IceTV [2009] HCA 14; 254 ALR 386 at [99]. The author or authors will be those who gather or organise the collection of material and who select, order and arrange its fixation in material form: ss 10(1), 31 and 32 of the Copyright Act and of IceTV [2009] HCA 14; 254 ALR 386 at [73][74] and [99]. However, it is a question of fact and degree which one or more of them will have expended “sufficient effort of a literary nature” to be considered an author under the Copyright Act: IceTV [2009] HCA 14; 254 ALR 386 at [99].
  6. Original works emanate from authors: ss 32, 33 and 35 of the Copyright Act and IceTV [2009] HCA 14; 254 ALR 386 at [22], [24], [33], [48] and [96]. Authorship and originality are correlatives: IceTV [2009] HCA 14; 254 ALR 386 at [33], [34], [47]-[49], [52] and [54]. In that context, as mentioned in [20(3)] above, “originality” under the Copyright Act “means that the creation (ie the production) of the work required some independent intellectual effort” and / or the exercise of “sufficient effort of a literary nature”: IceTV [2009] HCA 14; 254 ALR 386 at [33], [47]-[48] and [99]; see also at [187]-[188] and discussion of the need for some “creative spark” and exercise of “skill and judgment”. The phrases adopted are different. However, each phrase confirms that for a work to be sufficiently original for the subsistence of copyright, “substantial labour” and / or “substantial expense” is not alone sufficient. More is required. What that more is will, of course, vary from case to case but must involve “originality” by an identified author in an identified work. Where the expression of the work is dictated by the nature of the information the subject of expression without such effort, it will go against a finding of originality: IceTV [2009] HCA 14; 254 ALR 386 at [42] and [170].
  7. The Copyright Act does not protect facts, ideas or information contained in a work, to ensure a balance is struck between the interests of authors and those in society: IceTV [2009] HCA 14; 254 ALR 386 at [28] and the cases cited therein. The Copyright Act does not provide protection for skill and labour alone: IceTV [2009] HCA 14; 254 ALR 386 at [49], [52], [54] and [131].
  8. The Copyright Act protects the particular form of expression of the information: IceTV [2009] HCA 14; 254 ALR 386 at [26], [28], [40], [70], [102] and [160]; Hollinrake v Truswell [1894] 3 Ch 420 at 424 per Lord Herschell LC; Victoria v Pacific Technologies (Australia) Pty Ltd (No 2) (2009) 177 FCR 61 at [17] per Emmett J; see also Larrikin Music Publishing Pty Ltd v EMI Songs Australia Pty Limited [2010] FCA 29 at [40], [41] and [212]. Copyright is not given to reward work distinct from the production of a particular form of expression: IceTV [2009] HCA 14; 254 ALR 386 at [28] and [31]. Accordingly, it is “unhelpful to refer to the ‘commercial value’ of the information, because that directs attention to the information itself rather than to the particular form of expression”: IceTV [2009] HCA 14; 254 ALR 386 at [31] and [166].
  9. As compilations often contain facts and information, it is necessary to focus on the nature of the skill and labour required to create the work and ask whether it is directed to the originality of the particular form of expression: IceTV [2009] HCA 14; 254 ALR 386 at [31], [33], [47]-[48], [52] and [54].
  10. “Fixation” or identification of the original work is essential: ss 8 and 3135 of the Copyright Act and IceTV [2009] HCA 14; 254 ALR 386 at [15], [24]-[28] and [102]-[105]. Copyright does not subsist in a work unless and until the work takes a material form: IceTV [2009] HCA 14; 254 ALR 386 at [26] and [103].

A number of things become very clear from Gordon J’s enumeration of these points. Firstly, she has relied strongly on the reasoning in IceTV in her judgment, preferring that to the Desktop Marketing decision even though it was argued by the Applicants that Desktop Marketing had greater relevance. In fact, Gordon J addresses this argument directly at paragraph [46]:

Before turning to the facts, mention must be made of the decision of the Full Court of the Federal Court in Desktop Marketing Systems Pty Ltd v Telstra Corporation Ltd [2002] FCAFC 112; (2002) 119 FCR 491 (Desktop Marketing). In that decision, copyright was found to subsist in certain editions of WPDs and YPDs. The Applicants submitted that the resolution of the present case remains governed by the outcome in Desktop Marketing [2002] FCAFC 112; 119 FCR 491 and that the High Court’s comments on copyright subsistence in IceTV [2009] HCA 14; 254 ALR 386 should be regarded as obiter dicta. I reject that contention. Firstly, IceTV [2009] HCA 14; 254 ALR 386 is binding authority on the proper interpretation of the Copyright Act. The reasoning of both plurality judgments establishes principles of law beyond copyright infringement. Secondly, the High Court directly warned of the need to treat Desktop Marketing 119 FCR 491 with particular care: see IceTV [2009] HCA 14; 254 ALR 386 at [52], [134], [157] and [188]. Thirdly, Desktop Marketing [2002] FCAFC 112; 119 FCR 491 did not deal directly with the issue of authorship. Rather, all issues in respect of copyright had been conceded other than that of originality. In fact, Finkelstein J (at first instance) questioned the assumptions the parties had made about authorship: Telstra Corporation Ltd v Desktop Marketing Systems Pty Ltd [2001] FCA 612; (2001) 51 IPR 257 at [4]. Finally, the facts of this case are significantly different. The WPDs and YPDs in question are different. Moreover, the Genesis Computer System which stored the relational database and which was used in the production of some of the WPDs and YPDs in issue in these proceedings (after September 2001 in the case of YPDs and late 2003 in the case of WPDs) was not in use in Desktop Marketing [2002] FCAFC 112; 119 FCR 491. (The Genesis Computer System is considered in detail at [60]ff below).

Secondly, consistent with IceTV, she rejects the notion that skill, labour or expense alone can give rise to copyright protection (see also [341]). There must be something more, and that something more is the exercise of “independent intellectual effort” and /or “sufficient effort of a literary nature”.

Finally, she draws strong correlations between the concepts of “authorship” and “originality” in copyright law, such that a consideration of the latter is dependent on identification of the former. She says at [45]: “It would be absurd to assume that I am bound only to determine whether copyright subsists in the Works whilst ignoring any question of ownership. Copyright is a form of property created by statute for the benefit of the author or authors who, in the absence of some other arrangement, is the owner or are the owners of the work.”

Ultimately, the case turned on two factors. Firstly, Telstra’s inability to identify with any degree of certainty the “authors” of the WPDs and YPDs. Gordon J found that there were numerous people who had contributed in part to the production of the directories – some of these people were employees and some were independent contractors; some were still in the Applicants’ employ but others were not; and some had played only minor roles whereas others had played more significant roles. The exact number of contributors was unknown and the Applicants had not identified who the contributors were.

Secondly, Gordon J held that even if the authors could be identified with sufficient clarity and certainty (which they could not), the people suggested to be the authors of the works did not exercise “independent intellectual effort” and/or “sufficient effort of a literary nature” ([338]). The majority of the processes creating the WPD and the YPD was heavily automated. A system of computer-imposed “Rules” (which the judge considered extensively at [88]-[166]) controlled the content and prescribed the form of expression of the works (see [163]). Any human discretion had to be exercised in accordance with the Rules ([164]). The system was designed to limit originality, not provide for it ([341]). The tasks performed by individuals applying the Rules were mechanical and often able to be completed in large numbers swiftly ([341]). Very few people had any part to play in the final presentation of the works or the particular form of the expression of the information ([338]). Gordon J rejected the Applicants’ contention that the relevant intellectual effort involved was understanding and applying the Rules, holding that the independent intellectual effort required must be directed to the creation of the work and that the independent effort claimed by the Applicants was not ([165]). Consequently, Gordon J held that none of the works were original and none of the people said to be authors of the works exercised “independent intellectual effort” or “sufficient effort of a literary nature” in creating the works ([340]).


At paragraphs [343]-[344], Gordon J summarised her position:

It is not sufficient to demonstrate the subsistence of copyright by asserting that someone (and I do not accept that such a person has been found in this matter), who may in certain broad circumstances, in an unspecified number of relevant instances, have done an act that constitutes some unknown contribution to a work in question “no matter how unimpressive” will be enough to make good the Applicants’ claim.

Authorship and originality are correlatives. The question of whether copyright subsists is concerned with the particular form of expression of the work. You must identify authors, and those authors must direct their contribution (assessed as either an “independent intellectual effort” of a “sufficient effort of a literary nature”) to the particular form of expression of the work. Start with the work. Find its authors. They must have done something, howsoever defined, that can be considered original. The Applicants have failed to satisfy these conditions. Whether originality be the product of some “independent intellectual effort” and / or the exercise of “sufficient effort of a literary nature”, or involve a “creative spark” or the exercise of “skill and judgment”, it is not evident in the claim made by the Applicants.

Accordingly, Gordon J held that copyright did not subsist in Telstra’s WPDs and YPDs.

My thoughts

The broad test of originality set down in Desktop Marketing only served to create uncertainty for both creators and users in this area (especially users). It blurred the boundaries between facts, which are not protectable by copyright, and compilations of facts or data, which could be protected (raising questions of what constituted a “substantial part” of a factual database or compilation – some of those non-copyrighted facts?) It extended copyright protection to a realm of works not previously contemplated as falling within copyright’s scope, and encouraging overly broad copyright assertions by opportunistic compilers of data.

In my opinion, the result reached by Justice Gordon in Telstra Corp v Phone Directories continues the sensible approach of the IceTV High Court in reining in the overreach of copyright in this area.