Posts Tagged ‘ALRC’

Attorney-General on copyright reform DownUnder

Friday, February 14th, 2014

Yesterday, the Commonwealth Attorney-General, who has portfolio responsibility for copyright in Australia, gave an important speech at the opening of the Australian Digital Alliance forum.

Some things that caught my eye:

The Copyright Act is overly long, unnecessarily complex, often comically outdated and all too often, in its administration, pointlessly bureaucratic.

Can’t argue with that: s 195AZGF or s 135ZZZZA, anyone? So, we are going to embark on a process to reform copyright. Bearing in mind that the ALRC has just had its report tabled:

I remain to be persuaded that [adopting ‘fair use’] is the best direction for Australian law, but nevertheless I will bring an open and inquiring mind to the debate.

and

First, when this process is finished, and it will be a through and exhaustive exercise in law reform, the Copyright Act, will be shorter, simpler and easier to use and understand.

Secondly, the Act will be technology neutral – no more amusing references to videotapes as we find in current section 110AA.

Thirdly, we will pay careful regard to the broader international legal and economic context ….

In carrying out this work:

The challenge for us today is how to balance the benefits for creators against a range of other public interests including the interests of users, educators and other important public goods.

….

Nonetheless, the fundamental purpose of copyright remains unchanged – to ensure that those who take on the risks of creation are appropriately rewarded for their abilities and efforts.

On the subject of online piracy:

the High Court’s decision of 2012 in the iiNet casechanged the position. The Government will be considering possible mechanisms to provide a ‘legal incentive’ for an internet service provider to cooperate with copyright owners in preventing infringement on their systems and networks.

Options the Attorney identified for fixing this include ‘graduated response’, third party injunctions against ISPs or maybe just facilitating self-regulation.

Read the Attorney General’s speech in full.

Lid dip: Peter Clarke

Copyright and the ALRC

Friday, December 6th, 2013

The Copyright Society reports that Senator Brandis (the Commonwealth Attorney-General) has confirmed to the Senate that:

  1. the ALRC did submit its final report on Copyright in the Digital Economy on Monday; and
  2. the ALRC has recommended:

It has recommended the introduction of a flexible fair-use exception as a defence to copyright infringement. It has also recommended retaining and reforming some of the existing specific exemptions and introducing certain new specific exemptions; amending the act to clarify the statutory licensing scheme; limiting the remedies available for copyright infringement to encourage the use of orphaned works; reforming broadcasting exemptions and amending the act to limit contracting-out terms.

According to the ALRC, it received over 860 submissions and anticipates that the Final Report will be tabled in Parliament within 15 sitting days after its delivery.

Senator Brandis indicated the Government would respond in the New Year.

In response to a further question, Senator Brandis re-affirmed the Government’s commitment to “the content industries” and stated:

It is the government’s strong view that the fundamental principles of intellectual property law, which protect the rights of content creators, have not changed merely because of the emergence of new media and new platforms. The principles underlying intellectual property law and the values which acknowledge the rights of creative people are not a function of the platform on which that creativity is expressed. The principles did not change with the invention of the internet and the emergence of social media. So in this changing digital world, the government’s response to the ALRC report will be informed by the view that the rights of content owners and content creators ought not to be lessened and that they are entitled to continue to benefit from their intellectual property.

Read the Copyright Society’s report here.

 

Update:

Zdnet reads Senator Brandis’ remarks as indicating the Government will not adopt the ALRC’s recommendations.

 

Lid dip: Peter Clarke, barrister

Myriad wins Down Under

Sunday, February 17th, 2013

Nicholas J has ruled that Myriad’s patent for isolated gene sequences relating to BRCA1 are patentable subject matter for the purposes of Australia’s Patents Act 1990.

Claim 1 of the Patent (No. 686004 entitled “In vivo mutations and polymorphisms in the 17q-linked breast and ovarian cancer susceptibility gene”) is for:

An isolated nucleic acid coding for a mutant or polymorphic BRCA1 polypeptide, said nucleic acid containing in comparison to the BRCA1 polypeptide encoding sequence set forth in SEQ.ID No:l one or more mutations or polymorphisms selected from the mutations set forth in Tables 12, 12A and 14 and the polymorphisms set forth in Tables 18 and 19.

At [70], Nicholas J explained the scope of this claim:

Claim 1 extends to isolated DNA, RNA and cDNA that has a BRCA1 polypeptide encoding sequence as shown in SEQ ID No.1 with one or more of the mutations or polymorphisms specified in the relevant tables.

To qualify as patentable subject matter in Australia s 18(1)(a) prescribes that the claimed invention must be a “manner of manufacture”.

This term, much to the chagrin of modernising law reformers, derives from s 6 of the Statute of Monopolies 1623. In the “watershed” NRDC ruling in 1959, Dixon CJ, Kitto and Windeyer JJ declared that the meaning of “manner of manufacture” is not to be derived as a matter of mere etymology. Rather it poses a question:

“Is this a proper subject of letters patent according to the principles which have been developed for the application of s. 6 of the Statute of Monopolies?”

and in answering that question, it must be recognised that the concept has a “broad sweep” intended to encourage developments that are by their nature unpredictable. Hence, their Honours indicated the processes at issue in that case were patentable subject matter because they led to, or resulted in, an artificially created state of affairs, that had some discernible effect, which had economic significance.  A very teleological approach from the supposed patron saints of strict legalism!

Nicholas J found that the isolated gene sequences claimed in Myriad’s patent were an artificially created state of affairs having economic significance.

His Honour at [105] rejected Myriad’s first line of defence claiming that there was a change in chemical structure simply by the process of isolating the gene sequence. Rather, more generally, the nucleic acid or gene sequence in its isolated form was sufficient to qualify as an artificially created state of affairs:

First, the concept of patentable subject matter is expressed in very expansive language.

Secondly, at [108] the nucleic acid did not exist in isolated form in the cell:

in the absence of human intervention, naturally occurring nucleic acid does not exist outside the cell, and “isolated” nucleic acid does not exist inside the cell. Isolated nucleic acid is the product of human intervention involving the extraction and purification of the nucleic acid found in the cell. Extraction of nucleic acid requires human intervention that necessarily results in the rupture of the cell membrane and the physical destruction of the cell itself. And purification of the extracted nucleic acid requires human intervention that results in the removal of other materials which were also originally present in the cell. It is only after both these steps are performed that the extracted and purified product may be properly described as “isolated” in the sense that word is used in the disputed claims.

Thirdly, at [109] isolating the substance could require “immense research and intellectual effort”.

In that case, it was only as a result of an intensive research effort that the isolated micro-organism in question could be made available for use in the manufacture of the new antibiotic. It was fortuitous for the patentee that it was its employees who were first to isolate the new micro-organism and first to deploy it in the manufacture of the new drug. That will not always be so. It would lead to very odd results if a person whose skill and effort culminated in the isolation of a micro-organism (a fortiori, an isolated DNA sequence) could not be independently rewarded by the grant of a patent because the isolated micro-organism, no matter how practically useful or economically significant, was held to be inherently non-patentable. In my view it would be a mistake, and inconsistent with the purposes of the Act, not to give full effect in such situations to the broad language used by the High Court in NRDC.

His Honour had earlier noted at [75] that, while the isolated substances contained genetic information, the patent did not claim information per se, rather, it was for a substance. Furthermore, at [76] because the claim was limited to the gene sequences in isolated form, it did not cover or extend to the naturally occurring DNA or RNA.

Nicholas J also noted that it was longstanding practice for the Commissioner to grant patents over gene sequences. Both ACIP (pdf) and the ALRC had recommended that this not be changed. The Government had announced (pdf) it accepted those recommendations and Parliament had implemented a different range of measures through the Raising the Bar Act, especially by introducing an explicit experimental use exception in s 119 C and the extension of the usefulness requirement by the introduction of new s 7A which was likely to affect the patentability of ESTs or expressed sequence tags.

 

Cancer Voices Australia v Myriad Genetics Inc [2013] FCA 65

ALRC’s Copyright and Digital Economy Issues Paper

Monday, August 20th, 2012

The ALRC has published an Issues Paper for its inquiry into Copyright and the Digital Economy.

In an attempt to provide some structure to the anticipated submissions, the Issues Paper propounds some 55 questions over a range of topics including:

  • should (maybe that should include “can”) Australia adopt a “fair use” exception (questions 52 – 53) – an earlier assessment by the CLRC (pdf – see p.7 for the recommendations);
  • is there a need for greater freedom for “transformative uses” such as ‘sampling’, ‘remixes’, and ‘mashups’ (questions 14 – 18)
  • to what extent should copying for private and domestic use be permitted more freely, including should Optus be able to provide its Optus TV Now service (questions 7 – 13);
  • orphan works (questions 23 & 24);
  • library and archive exceptions (questions 19 – 22);
  • data and text mining (questions 25 – 27);
  • educational institutions (questions 28 – 31);
  • Crown use (questions 32 – 34);
  • retransmission of free-to-air broadcasts (questions 35 – 39);
  • do the statutory licensing schemes work efficiently in the digital environment and are new licences needed (questions 40 – 44);
  • should there be any other free use exceptions and should any existing exceptions be done away with (questions 48 – 51);
  • to what extent should people be able to “contract out” of copyright exceptions (questions 54-55) – see what the CLRC thought (pdf).

The Issues Paper is available on the web, as a pdf, an ePub and also in rtf components. (So far as I can see, it does not appear to be available in “dead tree” form.)

Submissions are sought by 16 November 2012. The ALRC itself is required to report by November 2013.

If you are looking for an overview of what is already in place, the Australian Copyright Council’s take is here (pdf).

ALRC terms of reference finalised

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

The Government has announced the finalised terms of reference for the Australian Law Reform’s inquiry into copyright:

I refer to the ALRC for inquiry and report pursuant to subsection 20(1) of the Australian Law Reform Commission Act 1996 the matter of whether the exceptions and statutory licences in the Copyright Act 1968, are adequate and appropriate in the digital environment.

Amongst other things, the ALRC is to consider whether existing exceptions are appropriate and whether further exceptions should:

  • recognise fair use of copyright material;
  • allow  transformative, innovative and collaborative use of copyright materials to create and deliver new products and services of public benefit; and
  • allow appropriate access, use, interaction and production of copyright material online for social, private or domestic purposes.

As one might expect, the ALRC is directed not to duplicate work being undertaken by other inquiries and the like. It turns out that, amongst other things,  these include

not duplicate work being undertaken on: unauthorised distribution of copyright materials using peer to peer networks; the scope of the safe harbour scheme for ISPs; a review of exceptions in relation to technological protection measures; and increased access to copyright works for persons with a print disability.

Anyone know what that work is?

The ALRC is required to deliver its report by 30 November 2013.

Terms of reference here.

ALRC to get new copyright reference

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

The Commonwealth Attorney General has announced the appointment of Prof. Jill McKeough to lead a review by the Australian Law Reform Commission into the operation of copyright in the digital environment.

Prof. McKeough is Dean of the University of Technology Sydney and a well known IP luminary.

According to the Press Release:

“The Gillard Government is determined to get the balance right between providing incentives for creators and innovators and encouraging new opportunities within a digital economy including via the National Broadband Network.

“The inquiry will consider whether the exceptions in the Federal Copyright Act are adequate and appropriate in the fast paced digital environment,” Ms Roxon said.

Draft terms of reference are to be released soon, for consultation.

The ALRC has famously produced the excellent Designs report which led to the Designs Act 2003 and also a report into Gene Patenting. Hopefully, this inquiry will get the resources and the time to meet the high standard set by those efforts.

Lid dip: Peter A. Clarke

Gene (no)patenting bill going down

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

The Senate’s Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee has, by majority, recommended that the Senate should not pass the Patent Amendment (Human Genes and Biological Materials) Bill 2010.

The Bill is a private members’ effort and, perhaps not surprisingly, the three of its sponsor still in the Senate dissented.

(At the time of writing, it is proving difficult to get a working link to the text of the Bill itself.) According to the EM it was considered desirable to expand the ban in s 18(2) on patenting human beings and the biological processes for their generation:

The purpose of this Bill is to advance medical and scientific research and the diagnosis, treatment and cure of human illness and disease by enabling doctors, clinicians and medical and scientific researchers to gain free and unfettered access to biological materials, however made, that are identical or substantially identical to such materials as they exist in nature.

These biological materials even if they have been isolated, purified or synthetically made have not been transformed from products of nature into products of humankind.

Thus the Bill (a) reinforces the applicability of the proviso in section 6 of the Statute of Monopolies within the meaning of section 18(1)(a) and section 18(1A)(a), (b) reinforces the applicability of the distinction between discovery and invention and (c) applies that distinction by expressly excluding from patentability, biological materials which are identical or substantially identical to such materials as they exist in nature, however made.

Notwithstanding this, it is rather difficult to find an Australian research institute researching genes etc. which supported the idea.

The ALRC of course had previously recommended leave well enough alone.

The issue doesn’t seem likely to go away. Apart from whatever the Bill’s sponsors and their allies may get up to, the majority concluded:

5.26 Like many of those who gave evidence, the committee prefers the solutions offered in the proposed amendments of the Raising the Bar Bill. However, the committee does not consider that the amendments in the Raising the Bar Bill will resolve all of the issues in the patent system. In the opinion of the committee, serious consideration should also be given to the proposals for legislative enactment of the patentable subject matter test and the general ‘ethical’ exclusion made in the ACIP report on patentable subject matter. Other reforms may also be necessary in the future, particularly in relation to ensuring equitable access to healthcare. In this context, the committee recognises that the Senate Community Affairs References Committee has indicated it will maintain a ‘watching brief’ in relation to the impact of gene patents in Australia.[5] Despite the need for further reform to the patent system, the committee agrees that removing an area of patentable subject matter, as proposed by the Bill, is not an appropriate solution to this complex set of issues. (emphasis and hyperlink supplied)

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

Copyright reform agenda

Friday, February 25th, 2011

The Commonwealth Attorney General’s opening address to the Blue Skies conference is here.

Some excerpts:

International reforms:

While recognising that the challenges of the digital era are a global, not just national, issue, the Attorney General identified access to cultural works by the visually impaired as an area for early action:

An example of one area in which I am particularly keen to see a result this year in the international arena is overcoming copyright barriers for visually impaired people in accessing copyright works in suitable formats. I understand that internationally, only five per cent of all works are available in accessible formats for the visually impaired.  This is an unacceptable statistic and an acute problem for developing countries.

If there were hisses and boos from the audience, let’s hope it was for the right reasons!

On the domestic front:

  • a straight bat played to yesterday’s iiNet decision
  • a consultation paper will be released soon on who should be the beneficiaries of the ‘safe harbour‘ regimes, currently limited to the indecipherable “carriage service providers

For example, the definition excludes entities that do not provide network access but provide online services – Google and Yahoo are obvious examples of this category.

(That is the Attorney General’s example, not mine.)

  • possible introduction of a new “ad hoc” exemption to the technological protection measures (see e.g. s 116AN(9))

The Copyright Advisory Group has approached me for an additional exception to allow circumvention of technological protection measures for certain education purposes.

In particular they have sought an exception that would allow schools to change the format of films from DVD to MP4 for teaching purposes.

It would seem that what is to be referred still involves considerable clarification. One area flagged:

I believe there would be merit in examining some exceptions under our law in the context of the online environment and whether the correct balance exists.

Another which the ALRC will not be allowed to cut across:

It will be important to not duplicate work undertaken by Government on various policy issues, or in the course of related reviews -for example the Government’s Convergence Review.

So, it seems the Convergence Review will not just be “regulatory”.

Lid dip: Jane Treleaven