Archive for July, 2009

Procul Harum: paler shade of white afterall

Friday, July 31st, 2009

In its last ever IP judgment, the House of Lords restored Matthew Fisher’s claim to a declaration that he owned 40% of the copyright in Whiter Shade of Pale, after the Court of Appeal found his claim barred by delay.

IPKat has an extensive post and explanation.

As summarised by IPKat, their Lordships focused on the fact that Mr Fisher was seeking a declaration and not an injunction. In doing so, they indicated that the remedy of injunction might well not follow as opposed to damages:

If the declarations set aside by the Court of Appeal are reinstated, then, were Mr Fisher subsequently to apply for injunctive relief to prevent unauthorised use of the work, such an application would be dealt with on its merits. If the court was satisfied that it would be oppressive to grant an injunction in the particular circumstances, for instance because of prejudicial delay, it would refuse an injunction to restrain the infringement, and leave Mr Fisher to his remedy in damages …

Their Lordships also pointed out that the Copyright legislation, unlike real property, does not recognise a concept of acquisition of property by adverse possession.

Fisher v Brooker [2009] UKHL 41

In October, their Lordships (?) return as members of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom: Wikipedia here and Lord Bingham  here (pdf).

Kookaburra gets the Vegemite sandwich

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

Jacobson J has upheld Larrikin’s claim to be the owner of copyright in Kookaburra sits in the Old Gum Tree,  which means, at least, that Larrikin has standing to sue Men at Work et al. for infringing copyright in that music.

Larrikin alleges that Men at Work’s Down Under (you know, unfurl the Boxing Kangaroo, declare a national holiday and have a beer with Bondy) infringes the copyright in “Kookaburra”.

The trial was supposed to start in June, but wasn’t ready so Jacobson J heard, as a preliminary question, Men at Work’s defence that Larrikin didn’t own the copyright.

How did this come about?

Margaret Sinclair wrote “Kookaburra” back in 1934 and submitted it into a competition being run by the Girl Guides for “A Singing Round with Music”. The published terms of the competition were:

RULES for ENTRY.
(a) The entrance fee for each entry in any of the Competitions to be 6d.
(b) A prize of 10/6 to be given to the winner of each section.
(c) The Competitions to be open to all enrolled members of the Guide Association in Australia.
(d) All matter entered to become the property of the Guide Association.
(e) The decision of the Judges to be final.
(f) All entries to be accompanied by the entrance fee of 6d. also name and address of entrants.
(g) All entries to be in by July 31st.

(my emphasis)

Miss Sinclair’s entry was the winner!

Larrikin, however, didn’t claim title from the Girl Guides. Rather:

  1. in 1987, shortly before her death, Miss Smith donated some manuscripts, including an adaptation of Kookaburra for violin, to the State Library in South Australia and there was an accompanying form which said all copyright “owned by me” in the deposited documents shall vest in the Library on my death; and
  2. by her will Miss Sinclair left to the Public Trustee in South Australia all her estate and assets.

Larrikin obtained assignments from first the Public Trustee (for the princely sum of $6,100 through public auction) and, later, the Library.

Jacobson J held that Men at Work hadn’t proved that Miss Sinclair assigned the copyright in Kookaburra to the Girl Guides back in 1934, so (although Men at Work argued the terms of the assignments were  defective for reasons which his Honour is not alone in having trouble following) one or other of the assignments from the Public Trustee or the Library did the job.

The first problem for Men at Work was that there was no assignment in writing to the Girl Guides with Miss Sinclair’s signature on it. There was a manuscript with her signature and initials, but that was equivocal; it might have just been to identify the manuscript as hers and not some other entrant in the competition.

Similarly, Jacobson J considered it was pure speculation to assume that there must have been a signed entry form. Miss Sinclair was closely involved in the Girl Guides movement and it could not simply be assumed that she had submitted a form – she was well-known to the Guides – or even that she was aware of the terms of the competition.

Further, Jacobson J considered that clause (d) set out above was insufficient to do the work of an assignment. It might have just referred to property in the manuscript. Afterall, when you buy a book from your local (or online) bookseller, you get ownership of the physical copy, not the copyright.

Finally, there was evidence of conduct after the competition which indicated to Jacobson J that Miss Sinclair had never intended to assign her copyright. For example, in 1934 and 1935 she had donated to the Guides royalty payments she received from sales of printed copies of Kookaburra. The Guides, in turn, had thanked her for her generous gifts. They also sought permission from her in later years to reprint the music.

Where does that leave the case?

Well, first, it is interesting that Men at Work had to prove the assignment to the Guides and not Larrikin having to disprove it. I suppose that is because Larrikin was relying on the assignments from the Public Trustee and the Library so Men at Work had the burden of showing those documents didn’t work.

Secondly, presumably, it is yet to be decided whether or not some part of Down Under does actually reproduce the whole or some substantial part of Kookaburra. That would have been part of the postponed trial.

Then, there will be the question – assuming infringement be established – of how damages or profits are payable and whether or not the “innocence” defences in 115(3) and 116(2) are available.

The terms of the assignments set out in the judgments don’t appear to include assignments of the right to sue for past infringements. However, the assignments themselves should be sufficient to cover the 6 years before the proceedings commenced.

Larrikin Music Publishing Pty Ltd v EMI Songs Australia Pty Limited [2009] FCA 799

Lid dip: Peter Nicholas

A little bit of trivia: Men at Work, with Down Under, are one of 9 pop acts that have achieved simultaneous No. 1s in both the UK and USA, according to Wikipedia.

Wonder whether anyone from Men at Work will be appearing on Spicks and Specks now?

How to find whom to send DMCA notices to

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

Plagiarism Today outlines 6 steps to try and identify the person you should be sending “notice and take down” notices under the DMCA to.

Apart from complaints under the DMCA there could be some useful hints (apart from the inquiry to the Copyright Register) under our scheme. Although, of course, under reg. 20C the carriage service provider is supposed to publish those details in a prominent place on their website.

Read the suggestions here.

Google and facilitating or authorising

Monday, July 20th, 2009

DesignTechnica operates bulletin boards. The plaintiff alleged that some postings on the bulletin boards defamed it. In addition to suing DesignTechnica, the plaintiff sued Google for libel by reproducing snippets of the (allegedly) defamatory material in search results.

Eady J, sitting in the Queen’s Bench Division,  dismissed the plaintiff’s claims against Google on the grounds that Google did not publish the material.

The case obviously turns on the requirements for an action in defamation. Of potential interest in an intellectual property context, however, is that his Lordship noted that the generation of the snippets was automatic, not volitional. Thus, his Lordship analagised Google’s position to the position of someone who merely ‘facilitated’ infringing intellectual property conduct rather than ‘authorised’ it.

In the course of his judgment, his Lordship explained:

54.  The next question is whether the legal position is, or should be, any different once the Third Defendant has been informed of the defamatory content of a “snippet” thrown up by the search engine. In the circumstances before Morland J, in Godfrey v Demon Internet, the acquisition of knowledge was clearly regarded as critical. That is largely because the law recognises that a person can become liable for the publication of a libel by acquiescence; that is to say, by permitting publication to continue when he or she has the power to prevent it. As I have said, someone hosting a website will generally be able to remove material that is legally objectionable. If this is not done, then there may be liability on the basis of authorisation or acquiescence.

55.  A search engine, however, is a different kind of Internet intermediary. It is not possible to draw a complete analogy with a website host. One cannot merely press a button to ensure that the offending words will never reappear on a Google search snippet: there is no control over the search terms typed in by future users. If the words are thrown up in response to a future search, it would by no means follow that the Third Defendant has authorised or acquiesced in that process.

In addition, Eady J noted that Google had promptly blocked access to specific URLs, but could not reasonably be expected to block all search results which could include the (allegedly) infringing snippets.

Metropolitan International Schools Ltd v DesignTechnica [2009] EWHC 1765 (QB).

Lid dip: Prof Goldman

The Digital Economy Down Under

Friday, July 17th, 2009

Minister Conroy released on 14 July a report Australia’s Digital Economy: Future Directions, which he has described as a road map for Australia’s digital economy future.

Amongst other things, in (sort of, kinda, a bit) similar vein to the EU’s Commissioner Neely, the report notes:

The digitisation trend is changing customer habits and expectations. Increasingly, they expect an on demand experience, that is, the ability to enjoy what they want, when they want, on the device they want. This has been facilitated by digital video recorders and music and video sites that offer on–demand content for streaming or downloading.

The digitisation trend is changing customer habits and expectations. Increasingly, they expect an on demand experience, that is, the ability to enjoy what they want, when they want, on the device they want. This has been facilitated by digital video recorders and music and video sites that offer on–demand content for streaming or downloading.

but has attracted attention in the press for foreshadowing a crack down on file sharing.

Certainly, at p 19 (of the Snapshot), the report states:

Several rightsholder groups in Australia argued that a role for Government exists in addressing the apparent popularity of peer–to–peer file sharing of music and movies, without the necessary permissions of the relevant copyright owners. File–sharing is cited by the content industry as a barrier to further investment in sustainable and innovative content initiatives in Australia. However, some of the solutions proposed by rightsholders to address file-sharing have been criticised as raising issues of due process and consumer rights.

The Australian Government recognises a public policy interest in the resolution of this issue. The Government is currently working with representatives of both copyright owners and the internet industry in an effort to reach an industry–led consensus agreement on an effective solution to this issue.

Earlier, a pp 12-3, the Snapshot foreshadows further consideration of the scope and availability of the ‘safe harbours’ from copyright infringement:

At present it is unclear whether the present scheme works effectively for some types of online service providers that have subsequently grown in popularity since the scheme’s introduction. The platforms provided by newer online service providers allow social engagement, content distribution and political communications, through features frequently referred to as user–generated content and Web 2.0. This includes social networking sites such as MySpace, Bebo and Facebook (which launched in 2003–05), the online photo sharing site Flickr (which launched in November 2004), and video sharing sites like YouTube and Vimeo (which launched in 2004–05). ….

The limited availability of the safe harbours to those who qualify under that legislative triumph of drafting encompassed in the definition of “carriage service provider” has been under review now almost since before it was enacted. One wonders what there can be left to consider!

Also, with reference to Gov 2.0, the report does encourage Government to open access to appropriate categories of public sector information. I guess the devil lie in the detail of what is “appropriate”. For example. (Trying very hard not to mention that Senator Conroy is also the Minister responsible for the Government’s plans to censor the internet.)

In a positive move, consistent with the Gov 2.0 approach, the report has been released under a creative commons licence.

You can find the Snapshot (a 35 page synopsis) and the full report here in various formats.

Confidentiality, unconscionability and contract

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

Telstra and Optus have an interconnect agreement, in part to regulate how callers originating from one network get delivered to the other, charges and the like.

Optus successfully sued Telstra for misusing Optus’ confidential information under the agreement: information about call traffic between the two networks.

(You should look at that judgment as it illustrates the two-edged nature of many definitions of confidential information.)

In this part of the fight, Edmonds J declined to grant relief under the equitable obligation of confidence as the contractual obligations in question were comprehensive.

His Honour also explored the meaning of the prohibition on unconscionable conduct in s 51AA of the TPA, but declined to find a contravention in that context.

Optus Networks Ltd v Telstra Corporation Ltd (No. 3) [2009] FCA 728

IceTV talk

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

Trying out a new experiment:

For such use as they may be, here are the slides for Monday’s talk to the VSCL on IceTV

I’m afraid there’s no audio.

Here too is the link to RailCorp’s complaints about the Sydney Transit iPhone app.

Another way of trying to deal with (part of) the problem.

Productivity Commission on parallel imports (books)

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

The Productivity Commission’s report has been released:

Copyright Restrictions on the Parallel Importation of Books

Key Points

Media Release

On a quick view, now they recommend repeal after a 3 year transition period:

Whereas the Commission’s draft report had proposed a partial liberalisation of the import restrictions, following further evidence, the final report recommends their repeal, with the industry having a period of three years to adjust before the changes take effect. The report recommends that the current range of grants and other financial assistance be refined to better target the local writing and publishing that adds cultural value to Australian society.

The Commission estimates that, while Australian authors and publishers do benefit from the restrictions, overseas authors and publishers benefit by a factor of 1.5 times. In addition to the transfer from consumers to authors/publishers (including those foreigners whom we could easily free ride on), there are also other inefficiencies.

On the question of subsidies:

For the reasons set out in chapter 7, the Commission has not recommended that the assistance provided by the PIRs [that’s parallel import restrictions] be replaced by subsidies.

It has, however, recommended that current subsidies for the local books industry be reviewed ahead of the abolition of the PIRs, and that the arrangements be reviewed again five years after their repeal. These reviews will provide an opportunity to consider the appropriateness of the existing subsidies and whether they might be improved. Among other things, such reviews could examine the case for changing some of the current subsidies to more directly assist outputs that generate cultural externalities.

For the reasons set out in chapter 7, the Commission has not recommended that the
assistance provided by the PIRs be replaced by subsidies.
It has, however, recommended that current subsidies for the local books industry be
reviewed ahead of the abolition of the PIRs, and that the arrangements be reviewed
again five years after their repeal. These reviews will provide an opportunity to
consider the appropriateness of the existing subsidies and whether they might be
improved. Among other things, such reviews could examine the case for changing
some of the current subsidies to more directly assist outputs that generate cultural
externalities.

I wonder, has anyone done a study of how far the price of CDs or computer software fell after they became open markets? Speaking purely ad hoc, and unempirically, it always seems that computer programs, at least, are cheaper “over there”. Don’t have any experience with music.

Lid dip: Peter AP Clarke

Help Help I don’t have a copyright

Monday, July 13th, 2009

The State of Victoria passed regulations requiring licensed taxis to be fitted with an alarm system that played the message (and only played the message)

“Help-Help-Driver-in-Danger-Call-Police-Ph.000”

It would appear the wording of the particular message derived from Pacific.

Pacific sought licence fees in the Copyright Tribunal pursuant to the Crown Use provisions. That proceeding was adjourned pending resolution of court proceedings to determine if copyright subsisted in the text of the message.

Emmett J held it did not:

17.  Copyright is concerned with the protection of the expression of ideas and not with the protection of ideas as such. Literary work comprises more than mere ideas. Many things that have no pretensions to literary style can be the subject of copyright. A literary work may be expressed in print or writing, irrespective of the question whether the quality or style is high (See University of London Press Limited v University Tutorial Press Limited [1916] 2 Ch 601 at 608). However, there must be some work involved in its production of a literary work, in the sense that it is necessary for the author to add something of substance in the form of the expression of ideas. Whether or not what the author adds is sufficient may be a question of degree in any given case.

18.  The originality that is required concerns the expression of the idea or thought and not the inventiveness of the idea (see University of London Press Case at 608). Whilst the required skill or labour necessary for the creation of a literary work in which copyright may subsist is not large, it must not be insubstantial. For example, as a rule, a title does not involve literary composition and is not sufficiently substantial to justify claims of copyright protection. However, that does not mean that in a particular case the title may not be so extensive and of such a significant character as to attract the protection of copyright ….

Copyright is concerned with the protection of the expression of ideas and not with the protection of ideas as such. Literary work comprises more than mere ideas. Many things that have no pretensions to literary style can be the subject of copyright. A literary work may be expressed in print or writing, irrespective of the question whether the quality or style is high (See University of London Press Limited v University Tutorial Press Limited [1916] 2 Ch 601 at 608). However, there must be some work involved in its production of a literary work, in the sense that it is necessary for the author to add something of substance in the form of the expression of ideas. Whether or not what the author adds is sufficient may be a question of degree in any given case.
The originality that is required concerns the expression of the idea or thought and not the inventiveness of the idea (see University of London Press Case at 608). Whilst the required skill or labour necessary for the creation of a literary work in which copyright may subsist is not large, it must not be insubstantial. For example, as a rule, a title does not involve literary composition and is not sufficiently substantial to justify claims of copyright protection. However, that does not mean that in a particular case the title may not be so extensive and of such a significant character as to attract the protection of copyright

After setting out a list of titles/slogans in which copyright had been denied, his Honour ruled:

21.  The question presently in issue may be stated as whether a piece of writing or collection of words is to be accorded the status of literary work, having regard to the kind of skill and labour expended and the nature of copyright protection and its underlying policy. It is not correct to say that the purpose of the Copyright Act is to protect original skill and labour (see Navitaire Inc v Easyjet Airline Company Limited [2006] RPC 111 at 148-149).

22.  The Help Words are not a form of literary expression, but a setting down of several simple words in the nature of saying something in ordinary parlance. They are no more than a simple instruction. The Help Words do no more than state the obvious words for use in drawing attention to a taxi driver requiring urgent assistance. They are not words that should be afforded monopoly protection.

23.  The Help Words simply indicate a desire to convey the notion that a taxi driver in duress seeks urgent assistance. They do no more than state an idea. The expression is inseparable from the fundamental idea that is being conveyed by the words. When the expression of an idea is inseparable from its function it forms part of the idea and is not entitled to the protection of copyright (see Autodesk Inc v Dyason [1992] HCA 2; (1992) 22 IPR 163 at 172).

His Honour also noted it would be inappropriate for copyright to subsist in such a message lest a taxi driver in trouble or a passerby be found to infringe.

The decision, with respect, is entirely consistent with the approach for infringement recently declared by the High Court in IceTV but, perhaps because the State’s submissions the decision is made one were prepared and filed in October last year, there is no reference to that case.

State of Victoria v Pacific Technologies (Australia) Pty Ltd (ACN 065 199 439) (No 2) [2009] FCA 737

What the EU Commissioner said on the Internet and Downloading

Saturday, July 11th, 2009

Commissioner Reding, the EU’s Commissioner for information society and media, has attracted a degree of attention planning an overhaul of internet downloading rules.

Her comments were part of a wide ranging speech on what the EU is doing and will be doing about broadband, access and …. So, what did she actually say?

After identifying access to digital content as the first of 4 priority issues, Ms Reding said:

1. My first and most important priority for Digital Europe is: To make it easier and more attractive to access digital content, wherever produced in Europe. The availability of attractive content that appeals to European viewers, listeners and readers will be decisive in driving further the take-up of high-speed broadband internet. It is therefore regrettable that we currently have an extremely polarised debate on the matter: While many right holders insist that every unauthorised download from the internet is a violation of intellectual property rights and therefore illegal or even criminal, others stress that access to the internet is a crucial fundamental right. Let me be clear on this: Both sides are right. The drama is that after long and often fruitless battles, both camps have now dug themselves in their positions, without any signs of opening from either side.
In the meantime, internet piracy appears to become more and more “sexy”, in particular for the digital natives already, the young generation of intense internet users between 16 and 24. This generation should become the foundation of our digital economy, of new innovation and new growth opportunities. However, Eurostat figures show that 60% of them have downloaded audiovisual content from the internet in the past months without paying. And 28% state that they would not be willing to pay.
These figures reveal the serious deficiencies of the present system. It is necessary to penalise those who are breaking the law. But are there really enough attractive and consumer-friendly legal offers on the market? Does our present legal system for Intellectual Property Rights really live up to the expectations of the internet generation? Have we considered all alternative options to repression? Have we really looked at the issue through the eyes of a 16 year old? Or only from the perspective of law professors who grew up in the Gutenberg Age? In my view, growing internet piracy is a vote of no-confidence in existing business models and legal solutions. It should be a wake-up call for policy-makers.
I f we do not, very quickly, make it easier and more consumer-friendly to access digital content, we could lose a whole generation as supporters of artistic creation and legal use of digital services. Economically, socially, and culturally, this would be a tragedy. It will therefore be my key priority to work, in cooperation with other Commissioners, on a simple, consumer-friendly legal framework for accessing digital content in Europe’s single market, while ensuring at the same time fair remuneration of creators. Digital Europe can only be built with content creators on board; and with the generation of digital natives as interested users and innovative consumers .

1. My first and most important priority for Digital Europe is: To make it easier and more attractive to access digital content, wherever produced in Europe. The availability of attractive content that appeals to European viewers, listeners and readers will be decisive in driving further the take-up of high-speed broadband internet. It is therefore regrettable that we currently have an extremely polarised debate on the matter: While many right holders insist that every unauthorised download from the internet is a violation of intellectual property rights and therefore illegal or even criminal, others stress that access to the internet is a crucial fundamental right. Let me be clear on this: Both sides are right. The drama is that after long and often fruitless battles, both camps have now dug themselves in their positions, without any signs of opening from either side.

In the meantime, internet piracy appears to become more and more “sexy”, in particular for the digital natives already, the young generation of intense internet users between 16 and 24. This generation should become the foundation of our digital economy, of new innovation and new growth opportunities. However, Eurostat figures show that 60% of them have downloaded audiovisual content from the internet in the past months without paying. And 28% state that they would not be willing to pay.

These figures reveal the serious deficiencies of the present system. It is necessary to penalise those who are breaking the law. But are there really enough attractive and consumer-friendly legal offers on the market? Does our present legal system for Intellectual Property Rights really live up to the expectations of the internet generation? Have we considered all alternative options to repression? Have we really looked at the issue through the eyes of a 16 year old? Or only from the perspective of law professors who grew up in the Gutenberg Age? In my view, growing internet piracy is a vote of no-confidence in existing business models and legal solutions. It should be a wake-up call for policy-makers.

I f we do not, very quickly, make it easier and more consumer-friendly to access digital content, we could lose a whole generation as supporters of artistic creation and legal use of digital services. Economically, socially, and culturally, this would be a tragedy. It will therefore be my key priority to work, in cooperation with other Commissioners, on a simple, consumer-friendly legal framework for accessing digital content in Europe’s single market, while ensuring at the same time fair remuneration of creators. Digital Europe can only be built with content creators on board; and with the generation of digital natives as interested users and innovative consumers .

She then gave 2 examples.

The first was facilitating online licensing across all 27 member states. [Why stop there? As Prof. Gans has pointed out, albeit inaccurately under the rubric of parallel imports, this is a global problem.]

The second is to create a modern set of rules to encourage the digitisation of books:

Let us be very clear: if we do not reform our European copyright rules on orphan works and libraries swiftly, digitisation and the development of attractive content offers will not take place in Europe, but on the other side of the Atlantic. Only a modern set of consumer-friendly rules will enable Europe’s content to play a strong part in the digitisation efforts that has already started all around the globe. (The Commissioner’s emphasis)

Read the full text of the Commissioner’s speech here (the downloading wars start about 80% of the way ‘down’).

The idea of looking at the issue from the eyes of 16 year olds, rather than people who grew up in the 50s and 60s, is rather Lessig-ian (watch the Ted Talk video).

Bit of a stretch, blaming the law professors though!

Meanwhile, the very same day, Euro publishers, demonstrating the “us” versus “them” mentality Commissioner Reding criticised, took the opportunity to open another front on their war against Google, linking and aggregating. Publishers’ announcement and Hamburg declaration via here.

post-publication postscript: Chris Anderson from Wired on “Free”, reviewed in NYT.