Archive for the ‘IT’ Category

Convergence review

Friday, February 4th, 2011

It’s never too late to discover a government inquiry (at least before the legislation comes through)!

Back in December, the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy announced a Convergence Review.

Media Release, draft Terms of Reference and “home page“.

Given its departmental provenance and some of the discussion in the Background Paper, it might be thought the Review is mainly targeted at the Telco Act, the Radiocommunications Act and the Communications/Media regulator.  There are some interesting straws in the wind for IP however:

First, the first draft term of reference:

In light of convergence, the Committee is to review the current policy framework for the production and delivery of media content and communications services. The Committee is to:
  1. develop advice for Government on the appropriate policy framework for a converged environment;
  2. advise on ways of achieving it, including implementation options and timeframes where appropriate; and
  3. advise on the potential impact of reform options on industry, consumers and the community.

(my emphasis).

In the Background Paper, there are also some interesting IP-related aspects:

So, at pp. 14-15:

Another trend affecting business models is the trend towards the ‘granular’ nature of media consumption; for example consumers can now download songs, not albums; watch specific TV shows on demand and not the linear programming of a channel, and read a single news article through an online search engine, rather than purchase and read the day’s newspaper edition. In the online world the consumer is in the driving seat of their own media and entertainment consumption patterns with more choice and control than ever before. In addition to the rise of competing online platforms and fragmentation of the consumer market, another challenge to established business models is that digital revenues are not yet matching analog ones. In 2008, NBC Universal CEO Jeff Zucker famously stated that media companies should not ‘trade analog dollars for digital pennies’24. By 2009, he quipped that this may have increased to ’digital dimes’25. While online revenues are growing and the gap is reportedly closing26, ensuring ongoing investment while balancing the difference between analog dollars and digital cents presents challenges to established media companies.

On p. 16 under the heading ‘Policy settings that encourage Australian, local, and children’s content’, the discussion about Australian content quotas imposed on tv and radio, ends:

The rise of these alternative audiovisual services and the growing fragmentation of the media market raises questions as to appropriate policy settings to ensure the ongoing production and distribution of Australian media content which reflects and contributes to the development of national and cultural identity.

(Their emphasis)

And, of course, the paranoid among you out there in cyberspace, will no doubt recall the rather cavalier treatment (e.g. here and here) meted out to iiNet before it won the (first round of) the Roadshow case.

Now, you could have fun (and spend lots longer than a year) on this: e.g. Prof Gans lambasts the authors (and, I guess, indirectly the other copyright owners who have similar ideas), but (for balance) also the App Store and, of course, until the Floods came, we were all twisted up with Gerry Harvey wondering if putting a GST on online purchases (overseas) will change the fact that you can often buy things online from overseas for prices 30-40% less than in stores here. Assuming of course you can “buy”: compare the tv shows or movies or books in the iTunes store or on Kindle or audible from Australia to what you can get with a US address, maybe. Somehow, I have avoided mentioning Google so far. Wonder how many examples the Review will come up with which lead to peeling back regulation?

Now, the time for commenting on the draft Terms of Reference closed on 28 January, so the scope of the review may become clearer. Then, there will be an independent committee to conduct the review, with their report scheduled for 1st quarter 2012.

One to watch!

Lid dip: Mary Wyburn

Software licensing

Friday, August 14th, 2009

IP What’s Up (USA) reviews a book demystifying software licensing (from a US perspective).

OUP’s link.

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.

Terms of Service Tracker

Monday, June 8th, 2009

The blogosphere ‘lit up’ and Facebookers (?) went on the rampage when it emerged that Facebook was unilaterally changing its terms of use (and not telling anyone) – Facebook: All Your Stuff is Ours, Even if You Quit.

Jonathon Bailey at Plagiarism Today looks at the EFF’s new TOSBack so you can keep up to date with how your service provider is “shifting the goalposts”.

Google, for example, amongst other things insidiously changed “Terms of Service for Blogger.com” to “Blogger Terms of Service”. (Vote of thanks to whichever Supreme Being I’m following today that I don’t use Blogger!)

All joking aside (and remembering the outrage at Facebook – hope Twitter doesn’t own all my tweets?), this could be a very practical tool.

p.s. Facebook did allow its outraged users to set up a community on Facebook to campaign against the change.

Use of Software and those computer defences again

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

You’ll recall that SAG licensed its database software to RWWA. RWWA engaged KAZ to provide disaster recovery services and installed a copy of the software on KAZ’ off-site servers. Meckerracher J dismissed SAG’s claim that this was unlicensed and therefore infringement of its copyright. (link via my attempt to summarise here).

The Full Court has substantially dismissed the appeal, but found the judge was wrong to the extent his Honour considered s 47F of the Copyright Act 1968 would have provided a defence also.

On the question of licence construction, their Honours found that the proposed use fell within the terms of the licensed use “for … emergency restart purposes“:

34 The phrase “for … emergency restart purposes” is more ample than, for example, “in order to restart the System in an emergency”. A penumbra surrounds “emergency restart”. It is a natural reading of the composite phrase to include within its coverage testing whether the copied System will restart should an emergency occur.

35 If one were to regard the phrase “for … emergency restart purposes” as open to two constructions, SAG’s construction, in our view, results in a meaning that would be unreasonable or inconvenient. The purpose behind clause 12.3 is to protect RWWA from serious loss in an emergency, whether caused by a breakdown of its mainframe or some external event putting it out of action. It would be an unreasonable and inconvenient result if RWWA were to be unable to take sensible steps to make it more likely that the purpose behind clause 12.3 would be achieved, by testing the copied system in order to maximise the chance of the restart occurring in the event of an emergency arising.

36 Further, we agree with the primary judge’s observation quoted at [28] that SAG’s interpretation would make clause 12.3 a pointless exception to the other prohibitive or restrictive provisions of the agreement, and that such a construction would provide very little scope for achieving the purpose of clause 12.3 described above.

The expert evidence was also consistent with this.

While the Licence Agreement did (by clause 1.4) expressly prohibit the software being installed at any location other than the “designated location”, the clause had to be read in context and clause 12.3, as SAG acknowledged, did permit RWWA to use the software “for archival or emergency restart purposes”. Clause 1.2,which prohibited “use” on anything other than the designated hardware, similarly had to be read down.

If the terms of the licence had not been capable of construction to permit this (fairly typical) type of disaster recovery strategy, however, s 47F would not have protected RWWA. S 47F provides a limited defence for “security testing”. However:

55 What s 47F(1) permits is the reproduction of the original copy for the purpose of testing the security of that copy. The original copy is the copy RWWA is licensed to use. The permitted testing is of the security of that copy. The passages from the primary judge’s reasons quoted at [49] appear to us to be saying that the testing of the functionality of the DR Copy at the DR Site is the testing of the security of the original copy at Osborne Park. That, in our view, is not what s 47F(1) authorises. On the facts of this case, what it permits is the making of a copy of the installed copy at Osborne Park for the purpose of testing the security of the installed copy. As it seems to us, the primary judge’s construction of the provision enables the DR Copy at the DR Site to be tested so as to determine its efficacy should the installed copy at Osborne Park for some reason be no longer available.

and, given the unchallenged expert evidence on the issue:

68 For the above reasons we are unable to accept RWWA’s contention, which the primary judge appears to have adopted, that “testing … the security of the original copy” extends to what was done at the DR Site, namely testing of the DR Copy to ensure that the System would be capable of being restarted and operated without the loss of data. In our view, “testing … the security of the original copy” should be confined to testing the original to ascertain its security from unauthorised access or against electronic or other invasion.

The Court noted, but did not need to consider the correctness, of his Honour’s conclusion that s 47C would also have protected RWWA.

So, an appellate level illustration providing some confirmation of how strictly the the Courts will approach the gobbledygook enacted in the special computer program defences. Make sure you draft your software licences to provide the protection actually needed – especially if the software needs to be used in a “disaster recovery” situation.

Software AG (Australia) Pty Ltd v Racing & Wagering Western Australia [2009] FCAFC 36 (Spender, Sundberg and Siopis JJ)

Pirated software at work

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

Over at Slashdot you will find some thoughtful (and practical) suggestions about what to do (from the in-house IT guy’s perspective) if you (or your client) finds pirated software at work – be warned, you have to scroll through the usual behind the shelter shed contributions.

Lid dip: Marty