IPwars.com

Mainly intellectual property (IP) issues Down Under

Resale royalty right

The previously foreshadowed bill to introduce the resale royalty right has been introduced into Parliament.

The Resale Royalty Right for Visual Artists Bill and EM can be found here.

The Bill has been referred to the House’s (not the Senate’s) Standing Committee on Climate Change, Water, Environment and the Arts for consideration and an advisory report to the House by 20 February 2009.

Presumably, if the Government and the “Coalition” can reach agreement on the terms of the Bill, it won’t be necessary to deal with those pesky independents and greenies.

Lid dip, the Australian Copyright Council.

Parallel imports and books

The Productivity Commission has published its issues paper on its reference relating to the parallel importation of books.  You can download the pdf here.  At present:

(1) anyone may “parallel” import a book for their own use (i.e., not to resell or distribute it);

(2) books first published after 22 December 1991 and not published first simultaneously in Australia may be parallel imported;

(3) for any other books, however, there is a very convoluted regime,

see Copyright Act 1968 s 44A and 112A.

Things have apparently changed since all the earlier studies by the then Prices Surveillance Authority, the ACCC and the Ergas Committee as now they would have us believe:

While requiring the Commission to examine options for reform, the terms of reference should not be taken as meaning that the current restrictions are necessarily inappropriate. That is a matter to be examined in this study.

Nonetheless, the Productivity Commission appears to have started from the former Prices Surveillance Authority’s proposition that the right to control imports is some how additional or extraneous to copyright:

It has been argued that restrictions on the parallel importation of books provide an incentive, additional to that provided by copyright alone, for people to create literary works.

At an impressionistic level, one clear benefit under the current regime has been the faster availability of paper-back editions. My recollection is that the Prices Surveillance Authority found paperbacks were usually not published until at least one year after the publication of the hardback edition in Australia – and often longer.  Walk into any Dymocks, Borders or whatever these days and you will often see 2 or even 3 different versions of the same book – the UK paperback, the US paperback and often the trade or mass market versions as well (the ones that smudge when you press your thumb too hard on the page).

It will be very interesting to see how the Productivity Commission explains its competition theory to support repeal when anyone with an internet connection can jump online and order the book from overseas (for their own use).

The sector most affected by the current regime might be thought to be the booksellers who can’t use this form of arbitrage (at least for books first published simultaneously in Australia – unless they already have a written or verifiable telephone order).  Would we all be better off if the booksellers could use the threat of parallel importing in volume to negotiate a better price from the the local publisher/distributor?

It will also be interesting to see how the Productivity Commission deals with possible cultural considerations, which have proved so powerful in Canada in trying to block parallel imports.  The Productivity Commission raises the possibility, however, that such issues can be better addressed by direct subsidies – so in the interests of market forces operating, the Government would have a more active role in trying to pick ‘winners’ and taxpayers generally would subsidise readers.

Your comments should be submitted to the Productivity Commission by 20 January 2009.

The Internet Wars (copyright campaign) come to ISPs down under

The big movie studios have brought proceedings against iiNet, one of the larger (in a non-Bigpond sort of way) ISPs seeking to impose liability on the ISP for infringing downloading by its subscribers.

The Application is here (pdf) and the Statement of Claim is here (pdf).

Various analyses:

Nic Suzor has a detailed view here

Kim Weatherall here

Australian PC Mag here

The Film Industry outlines its position here

IPRoo carries a quote from the Internet Industry Association’s CEO here.

As you can see from this coverage, this has really set the cat among the pigeons.  The striking thing about this action, however, is that one might have characterised iiNet as a general purpose ISP, not existing just to promote infringing downloads like the Court’s found Mr Cooper’s mp3s4free.com or substantially like Kazaa.

Thus, the distinction propounded by the record companies in Cooper (at [123]) and both questioned and side-stepped by Branson J (at [40]) appears to be very squarely off the table. So, as many of the bloggers note, it is not too much of a stretch to claim that the future of the internet is at stake here.  Will the old Copyright Convergence Group‘s analogy to the postal system – imposing liability only on the person who introduces (posts) the material – be confirmed or will we, through the Courts, turn back into a closed, monitored system?

The ISPs can hardly be surprised:

(a) s 101(1A(c) expressly provides for the development of an industry code to establish norms;

(b) the copyright owners have directly attacked the ISPs in Eire;

(c) the UK government has “brokered” some sort of more “pro-active” role on ISPs too.

No doubt, if the matter goes to trial, we can expect to see a volume of evidence about the volume of iiNet’s P2P traffic vis a vis its other activities and, before then, perhaps some applications for discovery of traffic details.

Given that liability appears to be predicated on authorisation, it will also be particularly interesting to see how the movie producers circumvent the prohibition on intercepting communications over a telecommunications system and, perhaps, (if an ISP is a carriage service provider) the prohibition on use or disclosure of information the contents of any communication carried by a carriage service provider.

Google book

You may recall that some time ago, Google started scanning/digitising every book they could find and putting on the internet for searching.

Court actions ensured and the project was scaled back somewhat to out of print/out of copyright books.

Now the court case has been settled (subject to the Court’s approval) and the project goes on:

IPkat here (with press releases etc.) – the horse’s (well, Google’s) mouth here.

Publisher’s Weekly here via Marty.

Australian Copyright Council here.

The record industry against the world

The EFF undertakes a review of the recording industry’s war against file sharing on the fifth anniversary of the launching of the RIAA’s first case.

Meanwhile, the RIAA is suing an attorney who seems to work overtime for defendants sued by the RIAA: here and. Amongst other things, Mr Beckerman maintains a checklist of tips for people facing an action by the RIAA: they won’t be directly applicable here, but who knows what food for thought you may find. If you want to get a better understanding of how the US litigation works, read Mr Beckerman’s article from the Judges Journal here.

And the RIAA is appealing (more here) the Jammie Thomas decision, seeking to be heard before the retrial.

Lid dip: Excess Copyright.

Lessig on copyright reform

Prof. Lessig has an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal outlining his ideas on what needs to be done to put copyright “right”.

Read it here.

Many owners of copyright no doubt will not agree.

Copyright liability for hosting material posted by others

Section 116AE of the Copyright Act 1968 (Category C activity) provides for a limitation on the liability of hosting services for material posted by others.  Think, for example, of YouTube or those websites that ISPs provide their subscribers. The broad conditions for the protection to apply are set out in s 116AH. Copyright Regulations reg. 20A to 20X provide more detailed requirements, including the notice and take down procedures.

Apart from the failed attempts of pretty much naked infringers to rely on these provisions, we don’t have much case law on how these provisions apply.  See Cooper and KaZaa.

The provision is closely modelled on §512(c) of the US Copyright Act (putting to one side the problematical “carriage service provider” criterion).

Therefore, you might find a US case, Io v Veoh, in which the host successfully relied on the defence worthwhile reading.  

Prof. Goldman has an excellent discussion here.

One of Prof. Goldman’s points is the problem of the relationship of the ‘safe harbours’ to liability for secondary infringement (the nearest analog in Australia being liability for authorising copyright infringement).

That could be an issue here too on the Moorhouse principles, but it has always seemed to me that, before this safe harbour was introduced, the web host had an even more direct exposure for direct infringement by reproduction and, possibly, communication. I wonder if the US Second Circuit’s approach in Cartoon Network v Cablevision (Aug. 4) has potential here?

Resale royalty right

On Saturday, the Age carried a story about the proposed resale royalty right.

The details (yet to be implemented in legislation) are up here (pdf) and here (rtf):

The scheme will start on 1 July 2009.  It will cover:

resales of original works of visual art sold through the secondary art market where the seller has acquired the work after the legislation takes effect. It will not be restricted just to works created after the scheme starts.

If such a qualifying work is resold (in the secondary market) for AUD$1,000 or more, there will be a 5% fee payable to the artist. This is the option the then Government’s 2004 study found would generate the highest level of royalty payments. (There is no indication whether or not the $1,000 will be indexed.)  Liability for payment will be joint and several and will cascade: seller, buyer’s agent, buyer.

For these purposes, a ‘ resale’ will include:

all resales involving art market professionals, public institutions or organisations, and all resales subsequent to the first transfer of ownership, regardless of whether the first transfer was made by sale, gift or any other means.   

A ‘work of visual art’ will be:

work of art original works of graphic or plastic art, such as a painting, a collage, a drawing, a limited edition print, a sculpture, a ceramic, an item of glassware or a photograph. This definition reflects similar arrangements in the EU. 

To qualify, the author will have to be an Australian or permanent resident (or their heirs) – I wonder if this will require qualification at the time the work was made?

The fact sheet indicates the possibility of reciprocity under foreign schemes.  It suggests this might have something to do with the Berne Convention.  A resale royalty (or droit de suite) is not covered by art. 6bis, but art. 14ter.

Joshua Gans looks at the economics here.  Anyone familiar with ‘artist’s rights’ legislation in Australia could have told him that artists, like children and the mentally incompetent, won’t be getting any right to ‘opt out’.  The fact sheet confirms:

The right will be inalienable and unable to be waived. 

The then Government’s 2004 study estimated that the scheme now proposed to be adopted would have captured 72% of sales at public auction in Australian in 2003. 823 artists would have benefited, with an average royalty of $3,300.  One artist would have generated a royalty of $207,000 and, at the other extreme, another $40.  Administration costs would have been $600,000. This is much higher than the UK estimates of £1 million start up costs and £50,000 pa on-going.

For those of you concerned that this might be the end of the auction market in Australia, a UK study (where a (somewhat different) scheme is operating, didn’t think so.

Jammie Thomas wins – sort of?

Ms Thomas, a single mother of two, is was the first person successfully prosecuted to a substantive trial by the RIAA in the USA for copyright infringement by P2P file “sharing” – using KaZaa, she downloaded and “shared” 24 copies of protected sound recordings.

The jury awarded RIAA statutory damages of US$220,000 by the jury (or $9,250 per song file downloaded).

Well, (pending the appeal), it’s all coming unstuck – a bit.  The trial judge, of his own motion (they do things differently over there?), recalled the matter, heard further argument and has granted a retrial on the basis that his instruction to the jury was erroneous. 

Jury Instruction No. 15 was as follows:

“The act of making copyrighted sound recordings available for electronic distribution on a peer?to?peer network, without license from the copyright owners, violates the copyright owners’ exclusive right of distribution, regardless of whether actual distribution has been shown.”  

The error appears to be in those words “regardless of whether actual distribution has been shown”.  

US copyright law, like much in the US I guess, is rather different.  The US Copyright Act does not include a “making available” right (see art. 8 WCT and arts 10 and 14 WPPT).  In the funny way they do things there, copyright owners do not get an exclusive right to communicate a work electronically; rather they get – in addition to publication and reproduction rights – (1) a right to publicly perform it and (2) to distribute copies: see 17 USC §106, in particular (3):

(3) to distribute copies or phonorecords of the copyrighted work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending.”   

The “public performance” right is how they provide control over broadcasting.  It turns out, however, that distributing copies requires that there be an actual distribution, not just a making available for distribution.

Four comments:

First, the trial judge has granted a new trial.  

Even on the narrow approach taken by the trial judge (putting to one side the potential for an appeal), Ms Thomas seems to be extremely exposed.  For example, the RIAA argued that the error didn’t matter because Ms Thomas infringed the copyright by downloading the recordings: an exercise of the reproduction right.  The trial judge noted that may well be right, but it was impossible to tell whether the jury awarded the US$220,000 damages on the basis of infringing the reproduction right or the erroneous instruction no. 15, or some combination of factors.

Similarly, the only proof of “distribution” was the copy downloaded by the RIAA’s private investigator.  Ms Thomas argued that this could never be a distribution because the copyright owner (and its authorised agents) can’t infringe its own copyright.  The trial judge rejected this:

The Court holds that distribution to MediaSentry can form the basis of an infringement claim.  Eighth Circuit precedent clearly approves of the use of investigators by copyright owners.  While Thomas did not assist in the copying in the same manner as the retail defendant in Olan Mills – by actually completing the copying for the investigator – or as the retail defendants in RCA/Ariola – by assisting in selecting the correct tape on which to record and helping customers copy – she allegedly did assist in a different, but substantial manner.  Plaintiffs presented evidence that Thomas, herself, provided the copyrighted works for copying and placed them on a network specifically designed for easy, unauthorized copying.  These actions would constitute more substantial participation in the infringement than the actions of the defendants in the Eighth Circuit cases who merely assisted in copying works provided by the investigators.   

That is, by using KaZaa, Ms Thomas placed (whether knowingly or not) unauthorised copies of the recordings in her “shared” file so that other KaZaa users could access it and copy it.  That would be sufficient for liability for distribution if a copy were shown actually to be distributed.  A retrial was necessary, however, because it wasn’t possible to tell how much that infringing act contributed to the damages award and how much as a result of the erroneous Jury Instruction No. 15.

Secondly, the trial judge’s interpretation of the distribution right seems somewhat narrower than what some people had been arguing: that distribution required distribution of physical copies, not transmission of electrons.

Thirdly, Ms Thomas’ imaginary Australian cousin, would not have much hope: see e.g. ss 31(1)(a)(iv) and 85(1)(c) of the Copyright Act 1968, bearing in mind the “communicate” is defined in s 10910 to mean

make available online or electronically transmit (whether over a path, or a combination of paths, provided by a material substance or otherwise) a work or other subject-matter, including a performance or live performance within the meaning of this Act.

and there would also be the small matter of the reproduction of the infringing copy on her computer.

She would not of course be exposed to statutory damages.  As Howard Knopf, over at Excess Copyright notes, the trial judge is extremely upset about the imposition of statutory damages in this context.

Although if the imaginary Australian cousin continued after receipt of a letter of demand “additional damages” might loom large: see Review v Innovative Lifestyle at [55] – [65] (a registered designs case).

Finally, trade war?  Well, not yet.  Who knows whether there will be an appeal and how long it will take.  In any event, the making available right is in the WIPO Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Performers and Phongrams Treaty.  These are not obligations that are required to be implemented by TRIPS and so are not subject to the WTO dispute resolution procedures.

But hey, may be Australian copyright owners could lobby the Australian government and get it to take matters up under the Free Trade Agreement procedures.  One can imagine (well fantasise is perhaps more accurate) that the US administration and Congress would be terrified at the offence to their treaty partner’s rights amidst all that Wall Street “flu”.  At least, it might be something to poke them back in the eye with (in due course and providing they are not wearing lipstick).

Case is Capitol Records Inc v Jammie Thomas here.

The Secret – more forum wars

Late in July, Sundberg J found that Australia was clearly an inappropriate forum to litigate the dispute over ownership and infringement of copyright in the film and the book, The Secret.  Now there is an appeal on foot.

To recap: interests associated with Ms Rhonda Byrne commenced proceedings in Australia claiming to be the owner of copyright in the film of The Secret.  Drew Heriot was the director of the film – there is a dispute between the parties over whether he was employed by one of the Byrne interests or the respondent in this proceeding.  In any event, the Heriot interests brought parallel proceedings in the USA.

Sundberg J considered Australia was clearly an inappropriate forum.  Broadly, this was on the basis that it was necessary to have regard to the whole dispute between the parties, not just the component of the litigation relating to Australia.  On that basis, by far the greater amount of damages at stake were those for infringement in the USA (the book has featured on Oprah, amongst others) and only the US court would have power to amend or correct the US Register of Copyrights.  The judge in the US has apparently reached a similar conclusion.

Now, the question in Australia is who should hear the application for leave to appeal: a single judge or the Full Court.  Heerey J has directed that the matter go before a Full Court and, subject to any directions by the Full Court, be heard concurrently with, or immediately before, the appeal.

His Honour considered that the Byrne interests would suffer substantial prejudice if it turned out that Sundberg J’s decision was wrong:

9 However the US proceeding will deal not only with copyright ownership, but with questions of infringement and damages, issues which do not arise in the Australian proceeding. There will be a significant burden, both financial and otherwise, on the applicant in having to contest that proceeding. Moreover, as Mr Batt for the applicant points out, his client’s Australian proceeding was commenced first, seeking a remedy under Australian legislation arising out of events which allegedly took place in Australia. The opportunity for the applicant to contest, and possibly win, the Australian proceeding, without having to defend the more extensive US proceeding, is something of real value, the loss of which arguably amounts to real injustice, supposing Sundberg J’s decision to be wrong. Apart from anything else, victory in the Australian proceeding may create some issue estoppel in favour of the applicant, or give it leverage in commercial negotiations.

Heerey J did avoid the question of whether the decision was in fact wrong.  It was not the subject of detailed submissions by either party.  In any event, experience taught that the two questions could not often be treated in a vacuum.  Moreover, there was a chance the matter could be dealt with in the November sittings if not before.

TS Production LLC v Drew Pictures Pty Ltd [2008] FCA 1329

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