IPwars.com

Mainly intellectual property (IP) issues Down Under

The Digital Economy Down Under

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

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

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 …

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.”

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

Acceptance by email

Logan J expresses the view, which in the end wasn’t necessary for his decision, that the instantaneous communication rule applies when considering when and where the acceptance of an offer by email occurs. That is, his Honour would employ an analogy to telexes – the place where the message is received; not the postal rule the time and place where the letter was posted.

25.  Flottweg’s acceptance was communicated by email to Olivaylle at its olive grove in Victoria. Experience suggests that email is often, but not invariably, a form of near instantaneous communication. The parties seemed content to assume that the place of contract was either Victoria or New South Wales, content because the common law of Australia was the same in either place and so, too, was the only statute law considered material. There was no suggestion in submissions that the place of contract was, for example, Germany. As a result, the ramifications of the adoption by the parties of email for their written pre-contractual communications, particularly the acceptance, were not explored. As it happens, the subject of formation of contracts by email has been explored in depth in an article by a local academic, Christensen S, “Formation of Contracts by Email Is it Just the Same as the Post?” (2001) 1(1) Queensland University of Technology Law and Justice Journal 22. Ms Christensen details there arguments for and against the assimilation of email communications with “the postal rule” or with what one might term “the instantaneous communication rule” and also the local adoption of international convention which touches on the subject. Having regard to the position taken by the parties in this case, it is not necessary to give detailed consideration to the point. It is enough to observe that I consider that there are analogies to be drawn with the way the law developed in relation to telex communications in an earlier era where what I have termed “the instantaneous communication rule” came to be adopted, perhaps at the expense of scientific precision but not so in relation to common commercial understanding. Thus, by analogy with cases concerning the position with what were, or were treated as, other forms of instantaneous communication, I consider that the contract was made where the acceptance was received, ie in Victoria: Entores Ltd v Miles Far East Corporation [1955] 2 QB 327; W A Dewhurst & Co Pty Ltd v Cawrse [1960] VR 278; Express Airways v Port Augusta Air Services [1980] Qd R 543; Reese Bros Plastics Ltd v Hamon-Sobelco Australia Pty Ltd (1988) 5 BPR 11,106.

Olivaylle Pty Ltd v Flottweg GMBH & Co KGAA (No 4) [2009] FCA 522

Lid dip Inchoate.

This seems eminently sensible in many situations, but could well prove rather random. Suppose you’re travelling from INTA and you get the email on your Blackberry (or that other phone) at LAX. Contract governed by the laws of California?

Use of Software and those computer defences again

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)

A tool bar for detecting hosts etc.

If you are trying to work out who is hosting a website and where it is being hosted, you might be interested in this discussion of the Netcraft toolbar.

Note:

  1. this is only for those using Firefox or Internet Explorer.
  2. Use at your own risk!

Pirated software at work

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

Patenting software in the UK (Europe)

The UK Court of Appeal has apparently broadened the scope to patent computer software:

Symbian Limited v. Comptroller General of Patents [2008] EWCA Civ 1066

Paul Cole guest posts at Patently-O. IPKat extensively here.

%d bloggers like this: