Productivity Commission on parallel imports (books)

The Productivity Commission’s report has been released:

Copyright Restrictions on the Parallel Importation of Books

Key Points

Media Release

On a quick view, now they recommend repeal after a 3 year transition period:

Whereas the Commission’s draft report had proposed a partial liberalisation of the import restrictions, following further evidence, the final report recommends their repeal, with the industry having a period of three years to adjust before the changes take effect. The report recommends that the current range of grants and other financial assistance be refined to better target the local writing and publishing that adds cultural value to Australian society.

The Commission estimates that, while Australian authors and publishers do benefit from the restrictions, overseas authors and publishers benefit by a factor of 1.5 times. In addition to the transfer from consumers to authors/publishers (including those foreigners whom we could easily free ride on), there are also other inefficiencies.

On the question of subsidies:

For the reasons set out in chapter 7, the Commission has not recommended that the assistance provided by the PIRs [that’s parallel import restrictions] be replaced by subsidies.

It has, however, recommended that current subsidies for the local books industry be reviewed ahead of the abolition of the PIRs, and that the arrangements be reviewed again five years after their repeal. These reviews will provide an opportunity to consider the appropriateness of the existing subsidies and whether they might be improved. Among other things, such reviews could examine the case for changing some of the current subsidies to more directly assist outputs that generate cultural externalities.

For the reasons set out in chapter 7, the Commission has not recommended that the
assistance provided by the PIRs be replaced by subsidies.
It has, however, recommended that current subsidies for the local books industry be
reviewed ahead of the abolition of the PIRs, and that the arrangements be reviewed
again five years after their repeal. These reviews will provide an opportunity to
consider the appropriateness of the existing subsidies and whether they might be
improved. Among other things, such reviews could examine the case for changing
some of the current subsidies to more directly assist outputs that generate cultural
externalities.

I wonder, has anyone done a study of how far the price of CDs or computer software fell after they became open markets? Speaking purely ad hoc, and unempirically, it always seems that computer programs, at least, are cheaper “over there”. Don’t have any experience with music.

Lid dip: Peter AP Clarke

Help Help I don’t have a copyright

The State of Victoria passed regulations requiring licensed taxis to be fitted with an alarm system that played the message (and only played the message)

“Help-Help-Driver-in-Danger-Call-Police-Ph.000”

It would appear the wording of the particular message derived from Pacific.

Pacific sought licence fees in the Copyright Tribunal pursuant to the Crown Use provisions. That proceeding was adjourned pending resolution of court proceedings to determine if copyright subsisted in the text of the message.

Emmett J held it did not:

17.  Copyright is concerned with the protection of the expression of ideas and not with the protection of ideas as such. Literary work comprises more than mere ideas. Many things that have no pretensions to literary style can be the subject of copyright. A literary work may be expressed in print or writing, irrespective of the question whether the quality or style is high (See University of London Press Limited v University Tutorial Press Limited [1916] 2 Ch 601 at 608). However, there must be some work involved in its production of a literary work, in the sense that it is necessary for the author to add something of substance in the form of the expression of ideas. Whether or not what the author adds is sufficient may be a question of degree in any given case.

18.  The originality that is required concerns the expression of the idea or thought and not the inventiveness of the idea (see University of London Press Case at 608). Whilst the required skill or labour necessary for the creation of a literary work in which copyright may subsist is not large, it must not be insubstantial. For example, as a rule, a title does not involve literary composition and is not sufficiently substantial to justify claims of copyright protection. However, that does not mean that in a particular case the title may not be so extensive and of such a significant character as to attract the protection of copyright ….

Copyright is concerned with the protection of the expression of ideas and not with the protection of ideas as such. Literary work comprises more than mere ideas. Many things that have no pretensions to literary style can be the subject of copyright. A literary work may be expressed in print or writing, irrespective of the question whether the quality or style is high (See University of London Press Limited v University Tutorial Press Limited [1916] 2 Ch 601 at 608). However, there must be some work involved in its production of a literary work, in the sense that it is necessary for the author to add something of substance in the form of the expression of ideas. Whether or not what the author adds is sufficient may be a question of degree in any given case.
The originality that is required concerns the expression of the idea or thought and not the inventiveness of the idea (see University of London Press Case at 608). Whilst the required skill or labour necessary for the creation of a literary work in which copyright may subsist is not large, it must not be insubstantial. For example, as a rule, a title does not involve literary composition and is not sufficiently substantial to justify claims of copyright protection. However, that does not mean that in a particular case the title may not be so extensive and of such a significant character as to attract the protection of copyright

After setting out a list of titles/slogans in which copyright had been denied, his Honour ruled:

21.  The question presently in issue may be stated as whether a piece of writing or collection of words is to be accorded the status of literary work, having regard to the kind of skill and labour expended and the nature of copyright protection and its underlying policy. It is not correct to say that the purpose of the Copyright Act is to protect original skill and labour (see Navitaire Inc v Easyjet Airline Company Limited [2006] RPC 111 at 148-149).

22.  The Help Words are not a form of literary expression, but a setting down of several simple words in the nature of saying something in ordinary parlance. They are no more than a simple instruction. The Help Words do no more than state the obvious words for use in drawing attention to a taxi driver requiring urgent assistance. They are not words that should be afforded monopoly protection.

23.  The Help Words simply indicate a desire to convey the notion that a taxi driver in duress seeks urgent assistance. They do no more than state an idea. The expression is inseparable from the fundamental idea that is being conveyed by the words. When the expression of an idea is inseparable from its function it forms part of the idea and is not entitled to the protection of copyright (see Autodesk Inc v Dyason [1992] HCA 2; (1992) 22 IPR 163 at 172).

His Honour also noted it would be inappropriate for copyright to subsist in such a message lest a taxi driver in trouble or a passerby be found to infringe.

The decision, with respect, is entirely consistent with the approach for infringement recently declared by the High Court in IceTV but, perhaps because the State’s submissions the decision is made one were prepared and filed in October last year, there is no reference to that case.

State of Victoria v Pacific Technologies (Australia) Pty Ltd (ACN 065 199 439) (No 2) [2009] FCA 737

Upcoming copyright and patent talks

Ben Fitzpatrick will be giving his highly regarded annual update of patents for IPSANZ on 16 July at 12.15 at the RACV Club in Melbourne.

Details will be available here (in due course).

After talking in Melbourne on 3 August, Dr Gurry will be delivering a speech at the National Press Club in Canberra on 4 August and then

on 6 August, the keynote speech at the Reimagining copyright for the 21st century in Canberra at the National Gallery. In what promises to be an exciting conference, there will also be papers by:

  • Professor Brad Sherman: Key developments in the last 40 years of copyright
    that shape our thinking about the future
    * Professor Sam Ricketson: Copyright and functional products
    * Sophie Goddard SC: Development of copyright by the courts
    * Dr Matthew Rimmer: The role of fair use in creative freedom
    * Associate Professor Melissa de Zwart:The role of copyright in innovation
  • Professor Brad Sherman: Key developments in the last 40 years of copyright that shape our thinking about the future
  • Professor Sam Ricketson: Copyright and functional products
  • Sophie Goddard SC: Development of copyright by the courts
  • Dr Matthew Rimmer: The role of fair use in creative freedom
  • Associate Professor Melissa de Zwart:The role of copyright in innovation

More details from here.

Finally, details about the biennal Copyright Society Symposium on 14 and 15 October 2009 in Sydney are up here.

Secrecy laws

The ALRC has released a discussion paper outlining 65 proposals:

“to balance a growing commitment to increased openness and transparency in government with the legitimate need to maintain the secrecy and confidentiality of some Commonwealth information.”

Submissions should be made by a leisurely 7 August 2009.

According to the Media Briefing:

The chapters fall into four broad areas:
concepts and comparisons;
a general criminal secrecy offence;
specific secrecy offences; and
administrative duties, practices and procedures.

The chapters fall into four broad areas:

    • concepts and comparisons;
    • a general criminal secrecy offence;
    • specific secrecy offences; and
    • administrative duties, practices and procedures.
and the centre piece would be:
the ALRC proposes that the new general secrecy offence should only impose criminal liability where a particular disclosure did, was reasonably likely to, or was intended to:
  • harm the national security, defence or international relations of the Commonwealth;
  • prejudice the prevention, detection, investigation, prosecution or punishment of criminal offences, breaches of a law imposing a penalty or sanction, the enforcement of laws relating to the confiscation of the proceeds of crime, or the protection of the public revenue;
  • endanger the life or physical safety of any person;
  • pose a serious threat to public health or public safety;
  • have a substantial adverse effect on personal privacy; or
  • have a substantial adverse effect on a person in respect of his or her lawful business or professional affairs or on the business, commercial or financial affairs of an organisation.

There are also chapters on the administrative obligations of the Public Service and fostering effective information handling practices.

(I guess that wouldn’t be: we can’t give you that for privacy reasons?).

Discussion paper here.

Media release

Media briefing paper

Patent and Trade Mark procedures in the Office

IP Australia has released 3 further consultation papers on “IP Rights Reforms”:

  • resolving divisional applications faster
  • resolving patent oppositions faster
  • resolving trade mark oppositions faster

Submissions are sought by 17 August 2009.

Download the papers (pdf or .doc) from here.

There are also links to the earlier papers on ‘Getting the Balance Right’ and ‘Exemptions to Patent Infringement’.

The value of descriptive ‘trade marks’?

Lea Lewin looks at why Virgin lost its opposition (in the Office) to Qantas‘ attempt to register

ALL DAY, EVERY DAY, LOW FARES

in the face of Virgin’s ‘trade mark’ for:

EVERY DAY LOW FARES

Unfortunately, Virgin’s ‘trade mark’ doesn’t exactly leap off its website (or the evidence it filed).

Given Qantas is on the verge of registration (and apparently using its ‘mark’ through Jetstar), I can see why Virgin would want one too. Duets looks at some reasons from a US perspective and some other things to think about.

But, surely the real question here, is how can any trade mark system allow anyone to register either (purely descriptive) ‘mark’?

Google’s trade mark policy

Yesterday (in the USA) Google’s new trade mark policy and complaint procedure came into force.

All the details here.

Australia is still in the regions where both text and keywords are monitored.

Lid dip @TrademarkBlog (aka Marty Schwimmer)

3 strikes in Kiwi land

Looks like New Zealand will be repealing its law imposing a “3 strikes” ban requiring ISPs to cut off infringing downloaders.

Howard has the news at Excess Copyright. Imagine how much lobbying is going to take place now? How long before the USTR has to fly all the way down “here”?

Howard also links to an interesting article about the settlement by Eire’s biggest ISP.

Our law, s 116AG, already gives the Court power to order an ISP to do this and, of course, the case against iiNet is still winding its way through the legal process.

Productivity Commission on parallel imports

The Productivity Commission has released its draft report into the copyright restrictions on parallel importing books:

Australia’s Parallel Import Restrictions (PIRs) for books should be modified as follows. 

• PIRs should apply for 12 months from the date of first publication of a book in Australia. Thereafter, parallel importation should be freely permitted. 

• If a PIR-protected book becomes unavailable during this 12 month period, then parallel importation should be freely permitted until local supply is re- established, or the expiry of the 12 month period allows for generalised parallel importation.  

• Booksellers should be allowed to overtly offer an aggregation service for individual orders of imported books under the single use provisions. 

All other aspects of the current PIR arrangements should continue unchanged, including the 30 day rule. 

All to be topped up with what appears to be the now mandatory 5 year review to see if it’s working.

I wonder how many books your local bookseller will have to order at once before he or she will start to consider absorbing the cost of freight? Of course, we can always hope that they also find out about addall.com and all those other internet sites rather than using that complicated clunky thing they play with on their computers while you are growing a beard.

Links to the full report here.

Australian Innovation Review

The Government has released the Report On The Review Of The National Innovation System. 

You can download copies of the Report, an Overview, the 3 different press releases, the Minister’s introductory remarks and the Minister’s speech from here.  I wonder if the prospects of implementation are increased or decreased by the quantity of media assistance?

As the Report points out, “we have known for several generations that innovation pre-eminently determines our prosperity.”

And yet:

as a share of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), Australian Government support for science and innovation, has fallen by nearly a quarter. Also the number of researchers per 1,000 employees has declined substantially in the last decade, and US patents granted per 1,000 population have plunged from 0.06 to 0.01 (1999–2003). And yet during this time, the public revenue was fed by a torrent of cash from the mineral boom. 

There are 201 pages, plus 7 annexes.  There are 15 pages of recommendations.

Interestingly, there is also a software analysis of the main themes identified in submissions and, very usefully, the Departmental summary of the submissions.

Comments can be submitted to the Ministry until (at least) 23 September 2008.  Well, it is almost 2 weeks!