Category Archives: Uncategorized

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.

Event: How to Win an AIMIA Award

The Australian Interactive Media Industry Association (AIMIA) is holding an event on Thursday 22 October entitled, “How to Win An AIMIA Award”. The Awards have a Student/Education category. This is also a good opportunity to see examples of Australian interactive media works, how the works are judged nationally and how to create award-winning works with the principles applicable to interactive media work in general. Student-priced tickets are $30.

For more information and to register, visit the website.

Event Details:
Date: Thursday 22nd October 2009
Time: 3.30pm – 5.30pm with networking drinks afterwards
Venue: Central Eagle Street Conference Venue (in the Credit Union Australia building at 175 Eagle St)


Free Canberra Forum: Opening Australia’s Archives

Here’s the details:

The Institute for Creative Industries and Innovation, the Creative Commons Clinic and Creative Commons Australia invite you to a free workshop and discussion forum Opening Australia’s Archives

Date: 25 August 2009, 11:30am-5:00pm
Venue: National Library of Australia, King Edward Terrace, Parkes, Canberra
Digital technologies have drastically changed the landscape of creating, collecting and providing access to cultural materials. As linear models of knowledge and cultural production are supplanted by more distributed, collaborative networking models, Australia’s cultural institutions are increasingly seeking to engage with their audiences in ways that capitalise on these new capabilities. In this environment, traditional copyright management models can present a significant barrier to realising the full economic and social value of a collection. As a result, archives internationally are exploring the potential of open access distribution models.
This half-day forum aims to bring together representatives of Australia’s cultural institutions to:
  • identify the benefits and disadvantages of providing open access to cultural collections;
  • document models of access currently being used by Australia’s collecting institutions;
  • identify barriers to providing broader access to collections;
  • gauge the level of interest in a coordinated sector-wide approach to access policies and practices; and
  • develop a plan for improving government policy on access to cultural material.
It will build on discussion undertaken at a preliminary meeting held at Old Parliament House in Canberra on 24 May, 2009, and will generate practical outcomes including best practice guidelines, proposed collaborative projects and a detailed advocacy strategy.
Facilitators: Professor Brian Fitzgerald (Professor of Intellectual Property and Innovation, Queensland University of Technology), Jessica Coates (Project Manager, Creative Commons Clinic) and Professor Phil Graham (Professor of Communication and Culture, Queensland University of Technology)
RSVP: Please RSVP by 10 August to Jessica Coates at j2.coates@qut.edu.au or on ph: 07 3138 8301

The forum is free to attend and lunch will be provided.

Abuse of notice and takedown procedures

Yesterday, Slashdot reported:

“According to a PC World article, Google has submitted a brief to New Zealand about its proposed copyright law (section 92A). “In its submission, Google notes that more than half (57%) of the takedown notices it has received under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act 1998, were sent by business targeting competitors and over one third (37%) of notices were not valid copyright claims.””

I find these numbers rather alarming. If accurate, they demonstrate a serious need to reconsider the true effectiveness of notice and takedown procedures. As a mechanism, these procedures were devised as a way to manage potential and threatened copyright infringement suits. But as we have seen elsewhere in the copyright environment, the ability to make assertions of infringement can be and often is abused. Right holders have been known to make assertions of copyright infringement when users were in fact acting within their fair dealing or fair use exception rights. But I find the abuse of notice and takedown procedures even more concerning because it is not just rights holders making incorrect claims of infringment.

In Australia, s202 Copyright Act 1968 provides:

Groundless threats of legal proceedings in relation to copyright infringement
(1) Where a person, by means of circulars, advertisements or otherwise, threatens a person with an action or proceeding in respect of an infringement of copyright, then, whether the person making the threats is or is not the owner of the copyright or an exclusive licensee, a person aggrieved may bring an action against the first‑mentioned person and may obtain a declaration to the effect that the threats are unjustifiable, and an injunction against the continuance of the threats, and may recover such damages (if any) as he or she has sustained, unless the first‑mentioned person satisfies the court that the acts in respect of which the action or proceeding was threatened constituted, or, if done, would constitute, an infringement of copyright.

My question is – is this enough to protect from groundless takedown notices? I think it would depend on the language of the notice, especially since s202(2) provides: “The mere notification of the existence of a copyright does not constitute a threat of an action or proceeding within the meaning of this section.” Not to mention that the procedure for actually exercising the rights granted by s202(1) is quite expensive. I think this is an issue that our courts and legislature should give serious consideration to. The purpose of copyright law is to facilitate innovation, not to stifle it.