Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Convergence Review

Monday, April 30th, 2012

The Commonwealth Government has released the Final Report of the Convergence Review (pdf).

While initially there were some indications that this review might relate to intellectual property issues, especially copyright, the Final Report focuses on the areas of regulation traditionally covered by labels like “broadcasting”, telecommunications, “spectrum allocation”, “media ownership” and “local content” requirements.

The Minister’s Press Release notes that:

The release of the report provides an opportunity for stakeholders to engage with the Committee’s recommendations. I expect the recommendations will generate robust public debate

and indicates the Government will respond in due course

Links to various preliminary documents and Word version of Final Report.

Lid dip: Copyright Council

Smartphone patent landscape

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011

Dr Mark Summerfield has an interesting post demonstrating some work he and his colleagues have been doing modelling the ownership of patents in the smartphone space.

In their mobile technology landscape, or themescape, they seek to demonstrate pictorially:

  • Samsung appears to own key hardware patents;
  • Microsoft seems to own most software patents;
  • but Apple seems to have highly strategic patents.

The themescape also seeks to demonstrate that Google was a long way behind, but may be catching up if it gets to acquire Motorola’s patents.

Dr Summerfield does express some frustration:

It is therefore ironic – and some might say more than a little unfair – that Apple should be in a position to frustrate Samsung’s attempts to compete against its iPhone and iPad products, while the FRAND obligations associated with Samsung’s much larger patent portfolio leave it in a strategically weakened position.

In this context, it is hardly surprising that Samsung is in the Federal Court of Australia arguing that it should not be barred from obtaining an injunction against the iPhone 4S on the basis of the FRAND status of the patents which it is asserting against Apple.

But one might equally wonder why Samsung should be allowed to get injunctions on the basis of its so-called FRAND patents (assuming the fair and reasonable royalty is forthcoming) when it apparently volunteered its patents for inclusion into various standards in return for FRAND obligations? This FRAND-type issue has been around since at least the 1980s and led to this basic position.

Foss Patents also has a relatively recent round up of where many of the litigations between the various smartphone manufacturers currently sit.

Framing the Convergence Review

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

On 28 April, the Government’s Convergence Review (noted here) issued a Framing Paper.

According to p. 4 of this curious document:

This initial consultation paper seeks to identify the principles that should guide media and communications regulation in Australia, and provide stakeholders with the opportunity to raise the key issues arising from the principles. Its intent is to invite big-picture thinking about the Australian media and communications environment in its global context and how it may need to be shaped in order to achieve principles that serve the public interest. The committee will use these principles as a starting point to advise government of its preferred alternative policy framework

Accordingly (from p. 11):

the committee considers it appropriate to develop and consult with stakeholders on a set of principles to guide the committee’s consideration of specific issues. These principles have two main aims: to provide a consistent and transparent basis on which to consider specific issues and to ultimately form the basis of a set of policy objectives suitable for a converging media environment.

So your comments on the Framing Paper are sought by 10 June 2011. Then, the timetable is:

  • Emerging Issue paper : June 2011
  • Hearings: July 2011
  • detailed Discussion Papers: August 2011
  • Final Report: March 2012.

For the most part, the Framing Paper appears to relate to the regulatory regimes for broadcasting and telecommunications.

When announcing his intention to refer aspects of copyright law to the ALRC, the Attorney-General appeared to indicate that the reference (if any) will be subject to what happens in this Convergence Review. It is not so easy to identify from the Framework Paper, however, what areas might be cut across by the ALRC reviewing copyright law.

The Framework Paper does refer in several papers to “legitimate content services”. May be, it is to be found in “principle 6″ which is (proposed to be):

Principle 6: Australians should have access to the broadest range of content across platforms and services as possible

This principle is taken from paragraph 5(e)(ii) of the Terms of Reference and is consistent with the objects in the BSA12, and s.3(1)(a) of the Telecommunications Act to ‘Promote the long-term interests of end-users of carriage services or of services provided by means of carriage services.’ The committee considers that a guiding principle for the review is to maximise the range of legitimate content services available to Australians. A consideration is that regulation should be flexible and adaptable to changing market and technological circumstances, and constructed with a view to enhancing audiences and consumer choice.

Principle 7 appears to be directed more to the question of ‘net neutrality.

Convergence Review Framing Paper (pdf)

The Convergence Review’s home page

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.

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

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.

Googling it …

Monday, June 1st, 2009

From the blogsite:

We started with a set of tough questions:

  • Why do we have to live with divides between different types of communication — email versus chat, or conversations versus documents?
  • Could a single communications model span all or most of the systems in use on the web today, in one smooth continuum? How simple could we make it?
  • What if we tried designing a communications system that took advantage of computers’ current abilities, rather than imitating non-electronic forms? 

After months holed up in a conference room in the Sydney office … And now, after more than two years of expanding our ideas … Today we’re giving developers an early preview of 

Google Wave

Wave

Lid dip @joshgans; Where Tim O’Reilly sees it fitting in (via @dhowell via Dennis Kennedy via Shelley Powers). Mashable here and here.

“All of a sudden we realized we were in the auction business.”

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

The Annual Meeting of the American Economics Association tries to work out how Google works or how AdWords changed the world:

here

A tidbit:

During the question-and-answer period, a man wearing a camel-colored corduroy blazer raises his hand. “Let me understand this,” he begins, half skeptical, half unsure. “You say that an auction happens every time a search takes place? That would mean millions of times a day!”

Varian smiles. “Millions,” he says, “is actually quite an understatement.”

Lid dip @joshgans