Online copyright infringement in australia

Playing catch up: last month saw some significant developments for online copyright infringement in Australia:

  1. First, Dallas Buyers Club’s lawyers announced it is no longer pursuing its court action to get prelimiary discovery of the contact details of the 4726 alleged infringers: it’s over;
  2. Secondly, Mr Burke from Village Roadshow announced that the proposed Graduated Response industry code has been shelved;
  3. Thirdly, Village Roadshow and Foxtel announced that they are both bringing court proceedings to obtain website blocking injunctions against ISPs.

Graduated response (or 3-strikes)

One of the factors in the iiNet case which influenced the High Court to find that iiNet did not authorise the infringing acts of its subscribers was that iiNet could not credibly threaten to discipline subscribers accused of infringing by peer to peer downloading because, in the absence of an Industry Code, the subscribers could simply switch to another provider.

In response to that, the draft Industry Code arose from [a Government warning][agltr] that, if the parties did not come up with a solution, the Government would impose one.

However, Mr Burke has now reported that it would cost between $16 and $20 to issue each Infringement Notice under the proposed scheme because it would be necessary to check each notice manually. As he pithily explained, it would be cheaper to give the (putative) infringer a copy of the film:

“And it’s just so labour intense, that it’s somewhere in the vicinity of $16 to $20 per notice, which is prohibitive. You might as well give people a DVD.”

According to Mr Burke, if it is possible to develop an automated scheme, the costs should fall to “cents”. Until then, the scheme has been shelved.[1]

Finally, Mr Burke did go on to say that it was incumbent on rights holders to fight piracy by improving access to their content.

I wonder if we shall see a resumption of efforts to “fix” the authorisation provisions in the Act?

Website blocking injunctions

In the meantime, you will remember that last year Parliament added s 115A to the Copyright Act 1968, giving rights holders power to go to court to get injunctions ordering ISPs to block access to offshore piracy websites.

Now Village Roadshow and a number of Hollywood studios have brought action in the Federal Court seeking orders to block access to Solamovie, which is alleged to facilitate unauthorised streaming. There are 50 named ISP respondents including Telstra, Optus, M2 and TPG. The first directions hearing appears to be scheduled before Nicholas J in Sydney at 9:30am on 16 March. The website s115a.com has links to the Court documents, including the Originating Application and the Statement of Claim uploaded by Rohan Pearce.

Meanwhile, in a separate action, Foxtel has also gone after The Pirate Bay, Torrenz, TorrentHunt and IsoHunt. Nicholas J is holding the first directions for this one at 9:30am on 15 March. As with the Village Roadshow case, s115a.com has links to the documents, courtesy of Mr Pearce.


  1. The announcement seems to have come as some surprise to the ISPs. The report did not indicate who would pay for the development of the prognoticated automated system.  ?

Dallas Buyers Club No 5

Perram J has rejected Dallas Buyers Club’s latest attempt to get permission to send those letters of demand out.

Last time out, Perram J said DBC could get the names and addresses of the 4726 “downloaders”[1] only if it gave undertakings to use the information for the purposes of resolving its infringement allegations. limited the demands for compensation to the retail price of a download and some part of the unrecovered costs of detection and put up a bond of $600,000.

This time round, DBC wanted to claim monetary compensation on a different basis, including additional damages under s 115(4) and restrict the bond to $60,000 as it was only seeking release of details of about 10% of the “downloaders”. It also did not offer up the undertakings.

Perram J told them, no sale; they had their shot at what they wanted in the previous hearing(s). His Honour gave them until 11 February 2016 to comply with his previous orders or he would dismiss the application.

Dallas Buyers Club LLC v iiNet Limited (No. 5) [2015] FCA 1437


  1. By which I really mean the account holders whose accounts the ISPs’ records showed were using the IP addresses at the time of the alleged infringements.  ?

Harper Review: Government Response

Yesterday (November 24), the Government published its response to the Competition (Harper) Review.

According to the response, “Harper” made 5556 recommendations; the Government has accepted 39 of them in full, 5 in part and the remainder are still under advisement.

In the intellectual property field, the item receiving most press (here and here) is the Government’s acceptance of the recommendation to remove all remaining restrictions on parallel importing books. At the moment,[1] the importation of a genuine book published first in Australia or within 30 days of first publication overseas may be blocked provided the copyright owner complies with the convoluted regime to supply copies in response to an order. This guarantees availability, but still leaves the copyright owner free to set the price it charges the person placing the order.

Harper recommended:

Restrictions on parallel imports should be removed unless it can be shown that:

• the benefits of the restrictions to the community as a whole outweigh the costs; and

• the objectives of the restrictions can only be achieved by restricting competition.

Consistent with the recommendations of recent Productivity Commission reviews, parallel import restrictions on books and second?hand cars should be removed, subject to transitional arrangements as recommended by the Productivity Commission.

Remaining provisions of the Copyright Act 1968 that restrict parallel imports, and the parallel importation defence under the Trade Marks Act 1995, should be reviewed by an independent body, such as the Productivity Commission.

What the Government plans:

The Government supports the removal of parallel import restrictions on books. The Government will progress this recommendation following the Productivity Commission’s inquiry into Australia’s intellectual property arrangements (see Recommendations 6 above) and consultations with the sector on transitional arrangements.

The terms of reference for the inquiry provide that the Productivity Commission is to have regard to the findings and recommendations of the Harper Review in the context of the Government’s response, including recommendations related to parallel import restrictions in the Copyright Act 1968 and the parallel importation defence under the Trade Marks Act 1995.[2]

Harper’s recommendation 6 was a reference to the Productivity Commission to undertake a 12 month long “overarching review of intellectual property” focusing on

competition policy issues in intellectual property arising from new developments in technology and markets; and the principles underpinning the inclusion of intellectual property provisions in international trade agreements.

The Government response notes that in August it had already made this reference to the Productivity Commission.[3] The response on this point is curiously even-handed. The Productivty Commission:

is to have regard to Australia’s international arrangements, including obligations accepted under bilateral, multilateral and regional trade agreements to which Australia is a party. The global economy and technology are changing and there have been increases in the scope and duration of intellectual property protection. Excessive intellectual property protection can result in higher costs for Australian businesses and consumers and inhibit innovation. However, weak intellectual property protection can lead to under?investment in research and development (R&D) which also stifles innovation. A comprehensive evaluation of Australia’s intellectual property framework is needed to ensure that the appropriate balance exists between incentives for innovation and investment and the interests of both individuals and businesses, including small businesses, in accessing ideas and products. (emphasis supplied)

However, an independent inquiry into the processes for negotiating intellectual property provisions in treaties is not necessary: there are already robust processes in place and publishing an independent cost benefit analysis before the negotiations have concluded might tip our hand in the negotiations.

Section 51(3) gained a slight reprieve. Harper’s recommendation 7 was that it be repealed (and a new power for the ACCC to create block exemptions be introduced). Despite Prof. Harper’s injunctions that this is old news and we should just, er, do it, the Government thinks it should wait and see what the Productivity Commission says. Anyone betting the Productivity Commission won’t recommend …?

The Government also supports conferring a power to grant block exemptions on the ACCC:

A block exemption removes the need to make individual applications for exemption. The exemption is granted if the competition regulator considers that certain conditions are satisfied: either that the category of conduct is unlikely to damage competition; or that the conduct is likely to generate a net public benefit.

A block exemption power that supplements the existing authorisation and notification frameworks will be helpful in establishing ‘safe harbours’ for business. Block exemptions will reduce compliance costs and provide further certainty about the application of the CCA. They are an efficient way to deal with certain types of business conduct that are unlikely to raise competition concerns, either because of the parties engaged in the conduct or the nature of the conduct itself.

So, in the interests of promoting competition, we are going to introduce a European-style power for the regulator to design the marketplace.


  1. Copyright Act s 44A.  ?
  2. The Government also said it would not proceed with the recommendation about second hand cars, in the interests of consumer protection and community safety.  ?
  3. Indeed, you should already be putting the finishing touches on your submissions in response to the Issue Paper since they are due on Monday!  ?

Google Books = fair use in USA

Just in time for the 2015 Copyright Symposium, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the Google Books Project is “fair use” of copyright and so not infringing.

Judgment here (pdf). Opinion authored by Circuit Judge Leval.

Eleanora of the IPkats first look here; Rebecca Tushnet focuses on the fourth factor discussion here. The “four factors” from §107 are:

(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;

(2) the nature of the copyrighted work;

(3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and

(4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

Before responsibility for copyright was transferred to the Department of Communications and the Arts, the Commonwealth Attorney-General had commissioned a study of the economic effects of the ALRC’s recommendation to introduce “fair use” into Australian copyright law.

The Authors Guild v Google Inc. (CA2 Oct 16. 2015 13-4829-cv)

Productivity Commission reviews IP

The Productivity Commission has released an issues paper for its inquiry into Intellectual Property Arrangements.

What it was asked to do

In his reference the then Treasurer directed the Productivity Commission to investigate:

The Australian Government wishes to ensure that the intellectual property system provides appropriate incentives for innovation, investment and the production of creative works while ensuring it does not unreasonably impede further innovation, competition, investment and access to goods and services. In undertaking the inquiry the Commission should:
1. examine the effect of the scope and duration of protection afforded by Australia’s intellectual property system on:
(a) research and innovation, including freedom to build on existing innovation;
(b) access to and cost of goods and services; and
(c) competition, trade and investment.
2. recommend changes to the current system that would improve the overall wellbeing of Australian society, which take account of Australia’s international trade obligations, including changes that would:
(a) encourage creativity, investment and new innovation by individuals, businesses and through collaboration while not unduly restricting access to technologies and creative works;
(b) allow access to an increased range of quality and value goods and services;
(c) provide greater certainty to individuals and businesses as to whether they are likely to infringe the intellectual property rights of others; and
(d) reduce the compliance and administrative costs associated with intellectual property rules.

Big job!

As a consequence, there are a “gazillion” questions set out in the Issues Paper. Here’s just a few:

Do IP rights encourage genuinely innovative and creative output that would not have otherwise occurred? If not, how could they be designed to do so? Do IP rights avoid rewarding innovation that would have occurred anyway? What evidence and criteria should be used to determine this? Are IP arrangements in other jurisdictions more effective in generating additional creative output?

To what extent does the IP system actively disseminate innovation and creative output? Does it do so sufficiently and what evidence is there of this? How could the diffusion ofknowledge-based assets be improved, without adversely impacting the incentive to create?

What, if any, evidence is there that parties are acting strategically to limit dissemination?

Do IP rights provide rewards that are proportional to the effort to generate IP? What evidence is there to show this? How should effort be measured? Is proportionality a desirable feature of an IP system? Are there particular elements of the current IP system that give rise to any disproportionality?

What are the relative costs and return to society for public, private and not-for-profit creators of IP? Does the public provision of IP act as a complement or substitute to other IP being generated? Are there any government programs or policies that prevent, raise or lower the costs of generating IP?

What are the merits and drawbacks of using other methods to secure a return on innovation (such as trade secrets/confidentiality agreements) relative to government afforded IP rights? What considerations do businesses/creators of IP make in order to select between options? How does Australia’s use of methods besides IP rights to protect IP compare to other jurisdictions? Why might such differences arise?

The Commission seeks submissions about how the parameters of the IP system came to be set, and on the basis of what evidence and analysis.

How were decisions to extend IP rights in the past (e.g. copyright) assessed? Is an evidence-based approach systematically used to assess changes to the IP system? How transparent have decisions to change the IP system been, including when it comes to legislation and international agreements? Is a stronger evidence base and greater transparency in the public interest, and if so, how should this be accomplished?

Don’t worry. Things get more specific from here. Some of the questions about patents will give you the flavour:

What evidence is there that patents have facilitated innovations that would not have otherwise occurred, or have imposed costs on the community, including by impeding follow-on innovation?

Are there aspects of Australia’s patent system that act as a barrier to innovation and growth? If so, how could these barriers be addressed?

Do patents provide rewards that are proportional to the effort to generate IP? What evidence is there to show this? How should effort be measured? How does the balance of costs and benefits from patent protection compare across sectors and innovations?

What scope is there to better leverage the economic benefits of patents, by taking steps to improve the diffusion of patent information?

Is the patent system sufficiently flexible to accommodate changes in technology and business practices?

Do the criteria for patentability in the Patents Act 1990 (Cwlth) help the patent system to meet its objectives? Would introducing economic criteria for patentability and/or gradually reducing the duration of patent protection substantially improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the patent system?
….

There are numerouse questions in similar vein for the other IP rights and “data”.

Don’t get me wrong. These are all facinating questions. You, or professors and teams of doctoral candidates, could spend lifetimes trying to answer them.[1]

But here’s a thing. Are we really going to withdraw from the World Trade Organisation (with its obligations under the TRIPS Agreement)? Are we really going to pull out of the Australia – USA Free Trade Agreement? Or, given what the Prime Minister is reported to have said, does anyone seriously think we are not going to implement the TPP?

Hmmm. Maybe, at least as far as patents go, we could tell them that [28] of the majority’s ruling in Myriad has solved all the problems.[2] On the other hand, may be you are thinking this might be a good place to try and “fix” Myriad. In that case, you might like to read “Box 3 Beyond the theory” right up the front of the Issues Paper:

While discussions about IP rights are often theoretical, policy decisions about the balance between creators and consumers matter in real ways. Striking the wrong balance can impact the price and availability of books, music, cars, phones or even clothes.

The balance is particularly contentious in pharmaceuticals. Cases exist where patents have allowed pharmaceutical companies to charge what some consider to be unconscionably high prices for life-saving medicines. New compounds and biologic drugs, and their safety and efficacy, are no doubt expensive to develop and test and consumers are often willing to pay almost anything to access them (or the community as a whole through pharmaceutical subsidy schemes). Practices such as patent ‘evergreening’, seeking extended test data exclusivity for biologics, or paying competing firms not to produce generic medicines makes the balance of IP rights all the more contentious. (my emphasis)

Yes, once it has been “discovered”, the price of a new drug or treatment will be higher than if there was no patent. That is the point of the patent (or any other IP right): to allow the holder the opportunity to charge higher than marginal cost. How do you work out whether the price for that expensive drug is “unconscionably high”?


  1. As it happens, you have until 30 November 2015 to get your thoughts in.  ?
  2. Apart of course from those “innovation” patents.  ?

Productivity Commission to review all IP laws

The Harper Review[1] recommended that the Government should direct the Productivity Commission to undertake an overarching review Australia’s IP laws.

The Treasurer and the Minister for Small Business have now announced that review.

According to the Harper Review:

an appropriate balance must be struck between encouraging widespread adoption of new productivity-enhancing techniques, processes and systems on the one hand, and fostering ideas and innovation on the other. Excessive IP protection can not only discourage adoption of new technologies but also stifle innovation.

Given the influence of Australia’s IP rights on facilitating (or inhibiting) innovation, competition and trade, the Panel believes the IP system should be designed to operate in the best interests of Australians.

The Panel therefore considers that Australia’s IP rights regime is a priority area for review. (emphasis supplied)

In reaching that view, the Harper Review flagged concern about entering into new treaties with extended IP protections.

The terms of reference state:

In undertaking the inquiry the Commission should:

  1. examine the effect of the scope and duration of protection afforded by Australia’s intellectual property system on:

    a. research and innovation, including freedom to build on existing innovation;

    b. access to and cost of goods and services; and competition, trade and investment.

  2. recommend changes to the current system that would improve the overall wellbeing of Australian society, which take account of Australia’s international trade obligations, including changes that would:

    a. encourage creativity, investment and new innovation by individuals, businesses and through collaboration while not unduly restricting access to technologies and creative works;

    b. allow access to an increased range of quality and value goods and services;

    c. provide greater certainty to individuals and businesses as to whether they are likely to infringe the intellectual property rights of others; and

    d. reduce the compliance and administrative costs associated with intellectual property rules.

Then follows a catalogue of 9 matters for the Commission to have regard to. These include the Government’s desire to retain appropriate incentives for innovation, the economy-wide and distributional consequences of recommendation and the Harper Review’s recommendations in relation to parallel imports.[2]

The Commission must report within 12 months.


  1. The Competition Policy Review, recommendation 6.  ?
  2. Rec. 13 and section 10.6 of the Competition Policy Review: i.e., repeal any remaining restrictions unless the benefits outweigh the costs and the objectives of the restrictions can only be achieved by restricting competition. Cue diatribe about “restricting competition” especially given the oft mouthed formula that IP rights rarely (if ever) restrict competition.  ?

Dallas Buyers’ Club: no sale (yet)

Perram J has refused to allow Dallas Buyers Club LLC to send out its proposed letters of demand to the account holders identified through its preliminary discovery application.

Under pressure from the judge, Dallas Buyers Club LLC was forced to disclose that it would be seeking to claim compensation under 4 heads:

  1. the lost licence fee on the copy downloaded by the (alleged) infringer;
  2. a licence fee for each copy shared (uploaded) by the (alleged) infringer;
  3. an amount for additional damages;
  4. compensation for the costs incurred in detecting the (alleged) infringer’s involvement and the preliminary discovery application.

Perram J considered that (1) and, perhaps more surprisingly, (4) were legitimate. (2) and (3), however, were not.

Perram J also indicated his Honour would be prepared to lift the stay on sending the letters out if limited to (1) and (2). Bearing in mind that Dallas Buyers Club LLC is not in the jurisdiction, however, his Honour would require Dallas Buyers Club LLC to post a bond of $600,000 as surety for its compliance with his Honour’s orders about the use of the information.

His Honour did get informed what sum Dallas Buyers Club LLC actually had in mind demanding if some (alleged) infringer did contact it in response to the proposed letter. Other than disclosing that it was “substantial”, his Honour did not spill those beans to the public.

At [7] and [8], his Honour further indicated the Court’s considerable unwillingness to embark on the type of supervisory role over the use of the discovered information that the English and Canadian courts have been willing to undertake. Perram J thought those courts might be more willing to engage in such supervision as a result of the human rights protections for privacy in those jurisdictions. Perram J accepted that the discretionary nature of the preliminary discovery remedy permitted privacy issues to be taken into account. Rather than embark in close, ongoing supervision, however, it would appear that an Australian court will not afford the rights holder too many chances to satisfy the Court that it would use the discovered information appropriately

Dallas Buyers Club LLC v iiNet Limited (No 4) [2015] FCA 838

lid dip @mslods

Program formats and copyright

Channel 7 has lost its bid to get an interlocutory injunction against Channel 9’s show Hotplate.

Channel 7 claimed Hotplate infringes Channel 7’s copyright in the dramatic works consisting of the combination and series of incidents, plot, images and sounds that make up My Kitchen Rules:

  1. MKR Series 1, Episode 1;
  2.  the whole of MKR Series 1;
  3.  the whole of MKR Series 5; and
  4.  the whole of MKR Series 6.

Nicholas J found that Channel 7 had a reasonably arguable case, but did not agree with Channel 7 that it was a strong prima facie case. Then, his Honour considered the balance of convenience weighed in Channel 9’s favour.

Prima facie case

Nicholas J thought this might well cause Channel 7 some difficulties. At [15] his Honour said:

There may be a difficulty in framing the case in this way.  My understanding of Seven’s case is that it claims copyright in the dramatic work that constitutes the format for the MKR television program which was first reduced to material form in Series 1, Episode 1 (see Seven’s outline of submissions para 11). If that is correct, then one would expect subsequent episodes of MKR merely to reproduce the dramatic work (ie. the format) first seen in Series 1, Episode 1.  The alternative approach involves treating every subsequent episode of MKR as an original dramatic work that has its own original format.  This seems inconsistent with the way in which Seven has argued its case.  In any event, it is not necessary to explore this issue in any detail for present purposes.  In due course Seven will need to explain precisely how it puts its case.

Channel 9 contended that many of the key elements of MyKitchen Rules were common place and unoriginal. The makers of Hotplate, Endemol, also pointed to a catalogue of what it said were very substantial differences between the 2 shows:

(a) The Hotplate is based on professional restaurateurs, and established restaurant businesses, whereas MKR involves amateur cooks in their kitchens.

(b) The restaurants and contestants for The Hotplate were selected because they were varied examples of different restaurant styles and the best characters, not because they are from a particular State (as is the case for MKR) – as a result, two restaurants are in Sydney, one is in Brisbane, one is in Perth, one is in Mandurah (in Western Australia) and one is in regional Victoria.

(c) The restaurant businesses featured in The Hotplate focus on different cuisines in order to show different cooking styles, including Italian, Japanese, French, seafood, modern Australian and Asian fusion.

(d) In Round 1 of The Hotplate, the contestants are required to cook meals from their existing menu, and must be prepared to cook anything on the menu since they are not given advance notice of which two entrees, two mains and two desserts will be ordered by the judges, whereas in MKR the contestants select their own menu of one entree, one main and one dessert. The Hotplate shows the contestants preparing meals, but does not show them shopping for ingredients as for MKR.

(e) When their restaurant is featured, the contestants in The Hotplate wear what they generally wear in their day-to-day business – they are not provided with a branded apron as they are for MKR or for Masterchef (another well-known cooking program).

(f) In Round 1 of The Hotplate, the other restauranteur contestants provide their scores to the judges in a bill folder, but in Round 2 (after the restaurant makeovers), the other contestants must deliver their scores directly to the contestants whose restaurant is being featured on the night.

(g) The judges in The Hotplate give feedback to the contestants about everything from the ambiance and decor of the restaurant to the service to the overall menu to the specific dishes they serve – this is aimed at assisting the restaurateurs with how they can improve their businesses as a whole, not just the cooking. This is not an element of MKR since the program does not involve actual restaurant businesses.

(h) In Round 2 of The Hotplate, the contestants are given an amount of money to undertake renovations and makeovers of their restaurant’s furniture, colour scheme and decor in addition to updating of the restaurant’s menu. Again, this is not an element of MKR since the program does not involve the renovation or makeover of restaurant businesses. This information may be confidential to Nine. I have not had time to check while preparing this affidavit.

(i) In Round 3 of The Hotplate, the contestants cook meals from their newly renovated restaurants for diners. This is not an element of the MKR program since it does not involve restaurants or their diners.

Balance of convenience

Nicholas J accepted that Channel 7’s losses would be difficult to quantify. His Honour considered, however, that Channel 9’s losses would also be particularly difficult to quantify. The factor which appears to have tipped the balance, bearing in mind the problematic strength of Channel 7’s claim that its rights were infringed, was the disruption to Channel 9’s broadcasting schedule. 3 episodes of Hotplate had already broadcast and it was unrealistic to expect Channel 9 could simply resume where it left off, or start over again, if it successfully defended the infringement claim. At [41] and [42], his Honour said:

During the course of argument it was suggested by Senior Counsel for Seven that if Nine was restrained from broadcasting further episodes of Hotplate, it would be able to resume broadcasting them at a later date on the assumption that no permanent injunction was granted. I doubt that this would be as simple as the submission seemed to suggest. Presumably it would be necessary for Nine to re-broadcast the first three or more episodes. I think it would be difficult for Nine to re-establish the program’s momentum after it was abruptly halted by injunction and then “shelved” for however many months it takes to determine the proceeding and any subsequent appeal.

There is evidence from Ms Officer to show that Nine considers Hotplate to be a key piece of its programming that Nine has decided to broadcast in prime-time slots not only with a view to achieving high ratings for Hotplate itself, but also with a view to boosting the ratings of some of Nine’s other programs.

Seven Network (Operations) Limited v Endemol Australia Pty Limited [2015] FCA 800

Project home appeals

The Full Court has partially allowed Tamawood’s appeal, and denied Habitare’s appeal from Collier J’s findings about copyright infringement.

Tamawood designs and builds homes; Habitare is (or was) a developer. Habitare arranged for Tamawood to design some houses for a development it was working on. The plans were submitted to the local authority for, and received, planning approval. Tamawood and Habitare were unable to agree the basis on which they would go forward. Habitare decided to get Mondo Architects to draw up the building plans to carry the project forward and used Bloomer to build the houses. At first instance, Collier J found some of Mondo’s plans infringed, but others did not.

On appeal, the Full Court upheld Collier J’s ruling that Habitare’s licence to use the plans with planning approval terminated when Habitare decided not to proceed with Tamawood. This was because the basis of the licence was that Tamawood would not charge for preparing the drawings on the understanding it would build the houses. Use (ie., reproduction) of the plans outside those terms was unlicensed.

On appeal, Tamawood also successfully challenged Collier J’s conclusion that its copyright in “Stad 939 Conondale/Dunkeld”:

Stad 939 Conondale/Dunkeld
Stad 939 Conondale/Dunkeld

was not infringed by Mondo Duplex 1:

Mondo 1 Duplex with patio
Mondo 1 Duplex with patio

Two points of interest here. First, the Full Court was unanimous in holding that Collier J had erred by ascertaining whether Mondo Duplex 1 sufficiently resembled Stad 939 Conondale/Dunkeld and then considering whether or not there had been copying. The question of copying needs to be resolved first although, in doing so, the degree of resemblance may lead to an inference of copying.

Secondly, for Jagot and Murphy JJ, the degree of resemblance, Mondo’s access to Tamawood’s plans and the significant difference between Mondo’s plans before that access and after all contributed to a conclusion of copying. Their Honour’s then applied Eagle Homes v Austec to find reproduction of a substantial part on the basis that the copyright work could still be seen in the accused plans. For Jagot and Murphy J the changes in the floor plan were minor. At [168]:

The footprints of the duplexes are identical but for the addition of the patio at the rear of the Mondo Duplex 1 plans. The internal and other external differences all result from two changes – swapping the position of bedroom 1 with bedroom 2 and swapping the position of bedroom 3 with the living/entry space. All changes appear consequential on these two basic changes in location. The changes, however, are minor, in the sense that the overall relationship between the internal spaces and the exterior remain the same. ….

Greenwood J dissented on this point at [89] – [90], considering that the layout and traffic flows, shapes and proportions and relationships of the rooms and other spaces were sufficiently different. His Honour considered that the common placement of Beds 1 and 2 and associated wet areas along the external walls of the duplex rather than the party wall was rational and for obvious reason.

Otherwise, the Full Court affirmed her Honour’s ruling at first instance.

Tamawood Limited v Habitare Developments Pty Ltd (Administrators Appointed) (Receivers and Managers Appointed) [2015] FCAFC 65

 

How much is that copyright in the power generation system

The Full Federal Court has allowed the Commissioner of Taxation’s appeal from Pagone J’s ruling allowing SPI Powernet a deduction for the value of its copyright in the plans, drawings and manuals for its electricity power generation network.[1]

SPI Powernet bought the assets of the Victorian electricity power generation and transmission line system when the Kennett government privatised the State Electricity Commission in 1997. It paid $2.5 billion. The assets included the intellectual property rights which included the copyright in some 100,000 drawings and plans which were critical to the operation and maintenance of the business and various manuals and software.

The purchase price was not apportioned amongst the various assets. Indeed the sale agreement specified that the purchase price was fixed notwithstanding that the components might be shown “collectively to have a different value.”

SPI Powernet sought to apportion the purchase price among the various asset classes and, in the case of the copyright, claimed depreciation in respect of a “unit of industrial property”. The Commissioner assessed the value of the copyright at “nil”. Pagone J allowed SPI Powernet’s appeal, finding that the value of the copyright was in the order of $171 million using the replacement cost methodology.[2]

The Full Court’s decision involves a number of procedural issues as well as substantive questions including the extent to which the Commissioner’s methodology could be challenged and his Honour’s exclusion of the expert’s written reports at first instance.[3]

The Full Court were agreed that the valuation exercise undertaken by the experts was misdirected. The question was what part of the purchase price should be attributed to the copyright, not what was the market value of the copyright. That caused two problems for the SPI Powernet parties.

One problem was the form of the purchase price: by specifying that it was a fixed price regardless of the value of the component assets, it meant that no cost could be attributed to a particular component. If you are drafting a sale agreement and including intellectual property rights in the assets and not apportioning the purchase price, be careful.

The second problem was that SPI Powernet, as the purchaser of all the assets to run a power generation business, would have a licence implied by necessity to use and reproduce the copyright in conjunction with the business. So, Greenwood J said at [185] and [186]:

…. Let it be assumed that SPI PowerNet had not acquired the copyright subsisting in the 105,410 documents. Could it be reasonably inferred in such a case, having regard to the terms of the Agreement under which SPI PowerNet acquired all of the relevant assets necessary to conduct the electricity transmission undertaking, that Power Net Victoria (the Victorian government owned corporation which formerly owned the copyright in the documents), would have been the source of an implied licence in favour of SPI PowerNet to use all of the documents in connection with that undertaking in a way which included exercising any and all rights falling within the rights comprised in the copyright? The answer to that question seems plainly enough yes, in which event any exercise of any of the rights subsisting in the copyright would have occurred with the licence of the owner of the copyright.

Fourth, in those circumstances, it is not necessary to undertake a timebased analysis of the value of work which would have been necessary to recreate the 105,410 documents in a way which could have expressed the information contained in those documents in a noninfringing form. Such a valuation exercise does not aid or inform the statutory task under s 124R(5). I respectfully disagree with the finding of the primary judge at [33] that had the copyright not been acquired, SPI PowerNet would have had to create the field of documents in which copyright subsisted in a way which conveyed the same information but in a noninfringing way to enable the business to function.

and Edmonds J said at [102]:

If an actual acquisition by SPANT of all of SPI PowerNet’s assets as at 19 October 2005 had not included the copyright, there can be no doubt that by reason of the notion of “necessity”, as explained by McHugh and Gummow JJ in [Byrne v Australian Airlines Limited][byrne] (1995) 185 CLR 410 at 450, SPANT would have enjoyed an implied licence to copy and modify the drawings and documents in any event: see Copyright Agency Limited v State of New South Wales [2008] HCA 35; (2008) 233 CLR 279 at 305–306 [92] per Gleeson CJ, Gummow, Heydon, Crennan and Kiefel JJ, and the other cases there cited (also [81], [82] and the cases cited); see too Acohs Pty Ltd v Ucorp Pty Ltd and Anor [2012] FCAFC 16; (2012) 201 FCR 173 at [145].

Commissioner of Taxation v AusNet Transmission Group Pty Ltd [2015] FCAFC 60 (Kenny, Edmonds and Greenwood JJ)


  1. The case before the courts was actually 2 cases: 1 concerning SPI Powernet’s claim for the depreciation; the second by its parent when the parent adopted consolidated group accounts including SPI Powernet.  ?
  2. The valuation experts agreed there were three accepted methods to value the copyright: an income approach, a market value approach and a cost approach. Because there was nothing income generated from exploiting the copyright nor a market for the copyright, SPI Powernet’s experts applied the “replacement cost” method – what it would cost in time and effort to recreate the drawings etc. from scratch. See e.g. Pagone J at [24].  ?
  3. The latter of which led to the Full Court quashing his Honour’s decision on that part of the case and remitting it for reconsideration by Pagone J on the basis at [85] and [101] that the exclusion of the written reports meant it was impossible for the Full Court to evaluate his Honour’s reasons for accepting the views of SPI Powernet’s experts over the Commssioner’s expert on what all parties considered the fundamental issuel  ?