Service providers and safe harbours

According to Parliament’s website, the Copyright Amendment (Service Providers) Bill 2017 passed its third reading in the Senate and has now had its first reading in the House of Representatives.[1]

Instead of amending the definition of persons who can (potentially) claim the benefit of the online safe harbours to accord with the definition of service provider required under the Australia – United States Free Trade Agreement,[2] it will extend the class of potential beneficiaries from carriage service providers to what may broadly be described as “the education, cultural and disability sectors”.

To implement this impending development, the Department of Communications and the Arts has released a consultation paper on on draft Copyright Amendment (Service Providers) Regulations 2018 (you have to scroll down to get to the links for (a) the consultation paper itself and (b) the draft regulations).

If you are in one of those sectors or a rights holder with concerns, you need to get your submissions in by 29 June 2018.


  1. Both these events occurred on 10 May 2018.  ?
  2. See art. 17.11.29(xii): “For the purposes of the function referred to in clause (i)(A), service provider means a provider of transmission, routing, or connections for digital online communications without modification of their content between or among points specified by the user of material of the user’s choosing, and for the purposes of the functions referred to in clause (i)(B) through (D), service provider means a provider or operator of facilities for online services or network access.”  ?

Pokemon v Redbubble: the DMCA doesn’t apply Down Under

Pagone J has awarded Pokémon $1 in damages and 70% of its costs from Redbubble for misleading or deceptive conduct and copyright infringement. An interesting aspect of the case is that Redbubble’s implementation of a notice and take down scheme under the DMCA didn’t save it from liability, but did influence the ruling on remedies.[1]

Redbubble provides a print on demand online market place by which artists can upload their works to the Redbubble website and purchasers can then buy the artworks or designs applied to desired products such as t-shirts, cups and the like. A person uploading a work to the marketplace warrants that he or she has the relevant intellectual property rights and indemnified Redbubble against infringement claims.

The evidence showed Google searches in which paid (sponsored) and organic search results listing “Pokémon” products such as t-shirts bearing Pokemon’s Pikachu character[2] which could be ordered from the Redbubble site. The sponsored links were paid for and arranged by Redbubble through the Google Merchant Centre and the products themselves were offered for sale through Google Shopping. From the tenor of the judgment, I think that the designs were uploaded by third parties, but Redbubble arranged the “fulfillers” who printed and shipped the t-shirts (and other products) with the designs printed on them.

Pagone J found that Pokémon owned the copyright in the images of the Pokémon characters depicted on the various products in evidence. Further, the images were uploaded without Pokemon’s consent.

Pagone J found therefore that Redbubble had infringed Pokemon’s copyright and misrepresented, contrary to sections 18[3] and 29(1)(g) and (h) of the Australian Consumer Law, that the products were official or authorised Pokémon products.

In finding that there had been misrepresentations that the products were sponsored or approved by Pokémon, Pagone J referred, amongst other things, to the fact that the “sponsored” links did include the word “sponsored” (although this meant in fact that the products were sponsored by Redbubble, not Pokemon). His Honour also found significance in the fact that:

There was nothing on the Redbubble website to inform the consumer that there was no connection, authorised or otherwise, between Redbubble on the one hand and [Pokemon] (or any other entity authorised to exploit Pokémon products) on the other.

Copyright subsistence and ownership

Pokémon was able to prove it owned the copyright in the artistic works through the evidence of its attorney responsible for obtaining copyright registration in the USA. Although the attorney, Mr Monahan, had not been personally present when any works were created, Pagone J considered his evidence sufficient. At 36, his Honour said:

…. He conceded in cross?examination that he had not stood over the shoulder of any creator and, therefore, that he did not have direct eyewitness, or other direct, knowledge beyond that gained from “detailed consultation with the client” but that “with respect to each series of the cards, [he had] consult[ed] with the client to determine which – for instance, which Japanese card they derive[d] from, or [… where] the artwork comes from”. His specific and direct evidence was that of consulting with the client to determine that the works were made by the Japanese company and were made as the Japanese card, although, as mentioned, he did not fly personally to Japan and had not been witness to the creation process. It had been his specific professional responsibility to obtain and secure registrations in accordance with lawful entitlements and requirements. He was confident in that context of his conclusion that the Pikachu work was not a copy based upon an animation cell because of his experience over many years of consulting with the client as his professional obligations and legal duties. In specific response in cross?examination about being confident in giving evidence that the pose of Pikachu was not derivative of any other pose already published, Mr Monahan said that every investigation he had done about the card making process enabled him to say that the cards were generated on their own and were not derivative of the animation, “common poses notwithstanding”.[4]

Further, unlike Perram J in Dallas Buyer’s Club, Pagone J also accepted that the certificate of copyright registration in the USA identifying Pokémon as the claimant to copyright ownership was sufficient to enliven the presumption under s 126B(3) of the Copyright Act. (Given the history of the provision recounted by his Honour, one might think this should not be too controversial: afterall, how many other countries out there have a copyright registration system?)

Copyright infringement

Pagone J then held that Redbubble had infringed the copyright in three ways. First, his Honour held that Redbubble infringed by communicating the infringing images from its website. Although the images were uploaded by third parties, Redbubble made the communication for the purposes of [s 22(6)][22]: Pagone J distinguished Redbubble’s position from that of ISPs like iiNet at [48]:

In the present case Redbubble does not provide the content of the communications in the sense of being the originator of any of the 29 images on its website said to be infringements of the Pikachu work. In each case the originator was the artist who had placed the image on the Redbubble website. Redbubble, however, was responsible for determining that content through its processes, protocols and arrangements with the artists. Redbubble’s position is not like that of an internet provider. Redbubble is the host of the website with the infringing material. It has a user agreement with artists which deals with matters including the possibility of infringing materials, an IP policy, and a team dedicated to deal with impermissible content.

Secondly, offering the products for sale online was sufficient to enliven s 38 which, amongst other things, extends to exhibiting “infringing” articles in public by way of trade.

Although there appear to have been some rather unspecific complaints about copyright infringement by Pokémon between 2012 and 2014,[5] Pagone J found that Redbubble knew, or ought reasonably have known, that the products were infringing from the date of the letter of demand from Pokémon’s external solicitors on 25 November 2015.[6]

Thirdly, Pagone J held that Redbubble had infringed Pokemon’s copyright by authorising the manufacture of the infringing products when orders for their purchase were placed.

In this respect, it is worth noting that Redbubble had implemented and acted on a notice and takedown system under the (US) DMCA.[7] Pagone J recognised, therefore, that Redbubble did not expressly authorise infringement and took conscious, considered and reasonable steps, both proactively and responsively, to prevent infringements.[8] These, however, were not enough. At [67], his Honour said:

The business established by Redbubble carried the inherent risk of infringement of copyright of the kind complained of by [Pokemon]. It is true that Redbubble sought to mitigate the risk, but it was an inevitable incident of the business, as Redbubble chose to conduct it, that there were likely to be infringements. It could have prevented them by taking other steps but for business reasons Redbubble chose to deal with the risk of infringement by a process that enabled the infringements to occur. Such infringements were embedded in the system which was created for, and adopted by, Redbubble. There may have been a sound commercial basis for Redbubble to manage the risks of infringement as it did, but in doing so it authorised the infringements which occurred.

Remedies

Pokémon sought $44,555.84 in damages by way of lost royalties for the consumer law breaches and only nominal damages for copyright infringement. As already noted, however, Pagone J awarded only $1 in total.

The evidence did not establish that sales made by Redbubble were lost sales by Pokémon. There was, for example, no evidence that many of the sales were sales of kinds of products sold by Pokémon or its licensees. For example, his Honour said:

…. Many of the items sold through the Redbubble website involved a “mash up” of images, such as the combination of Pikachu and Homer Simpson. The finding of an infringing use of a work, or an impermissible representation in trade, does not necessarily lead to the conclusion that the sale made by the infringement or upon the misrepresentation was necessarily a sale that would have been made by the wronged party. The unreliability of such an assumption in this case can be seen from the fact that the infringements were in the use of the image in mash ups in, and in items that were not sold or authorised for sale by [Pokemon]. ….

Given the notice and take down processes put in place by Redbubble, Pagone J was not prepared to find the infringements were “flagrant”, warranting the award of additional damages under s 115(4)

Pokémon Company International, Inc. v Redbubble Ltd [2017] FCA 1541


  1. Implementation and compliance with the DMCA scheme explicitly affected the ruling on additional damages.  ?
  2. Even if you haven’t played it, you must have seen all those people milling around in parks at lunchtime trying to “capture” these imaginary Pokémon Go “critters”. Pokemon itself has an even longer history. There are also trading card games and a successful television series which has been broadcast in Australia since 2000 and distributed on over 57,000 DVDs.  ?
  3. If you are not sweltering in the southern summer sun, s 18 provides “A person must not, in trade or commerce, engage in conduct that is misleading or deceptive or is likely to mislead or deceive.” And s 29(1)(g) and (h) prohibit making false or misleading representations in trade or commerce about sponsorship, affiliation or approval.  ?
  4. Curiously, at [44] (when discussing ownership by proof of a certificate), his Honour also said Pokémon had not proved ownership on the basis of authorship.  ?
  5. In fact, Pagone J subsequently found that Redbubble did in fact remove listings when Pokemon notified it that they were infringing.  ?
  6. It is less than clear from the judgment what action Redbubble took in response to the letter of demand. Ordinarily, one would assume that it had continued engaging in the infringing conduct but that seems a bit surprising given Pagone J records that Redbubble did comply with other take down notices once the subject of complaint had been properly identified.  ?
  7. The DMCA, being US legislation, does not provide protection from infringement in Australia under the Australian Copyright Act 1968. Redbubble also purported to operate under the corresponding Australian provisions ss116AA – 116AJ but, of course, it is not a carriage service provider and so they do not apply either.  ?
  8. Cf. esp. Section 36(1A)(c)[s36].  ?

Safe harbours to be Extended

The Commonwealth Government introduced the Copyright Amendment (Service Providers) Bill 2017 into Parliament today.

As its name suggests the purpose of the Bill is to extend the class of persons who can claim the benefits of the safe harbour provisions in the Copyright Act 1968 provided in sections 116AA to 116AJ.

The way the amendments will work is essentially to remove the references to “carriage service provider” and replace them with a new reference to “service provider”.

For this purpose, “service provider” will be defined to mean:

116ABA Definition of service provider

(1) Each of the following is a service provider:

(a) a carriage service provider;

(b) an organisation assisting persons with a disability;

(c) the body administering a library, if:

  (i) all or part of the collection comprising the library is accessible to members of the public directly or through interlibrary loans; or

  (ii) the principal purpose of the library is to provide library services for members of a Parliament;

(d) the body administering an archives;

(e) the body administering a key cultural institution;

(f) the body administering an educational institution.

However:

(2) If a service provider is not:

(a) a carriage service provider; or

(b) an organisation assisting persons with a disability; or

(c) the body administering an educational institution, being an educational institution that is a body corporate;

this Division only applies to activities that the service provider carries out because of its relationship to the relevant library, archives, key cultural institution or educational institution mentioned in subsection (1).f you are not one of those people, you will be able to claim the benefit of the safe harbours

If your name is Google or Facebook, or you are some other provider of services inflicting user generated content on the world, you won’t qualify.

The new definition of “service provider” may be compared with the definition enshrined in the Australia – US Free Trade Agreement in Article 17.11.29(xii) (scroll down):

(xii) For the purposes of the function referred to in clause (i)(A), service provider means a provider of transmission, routing, or connections for digital online communications without modification of their content between or among points specified by the user of material of the user’s choosing,[1] and for the purposes of the functions referred to in clause (i)(B) through (D),[2] service provider means a provider or operator of facilities for online services or network access.

This is because, the Government has pointed out, copyright industries are highly valuable for Australia. Accordingly, the consultation process will continue:

In so doing, the Government will be mindful of the need to ensure the rights of creators are properly protected. Australia’s copyright framework ensures that creators can receive a fair return for their work. Australia’s copyright industries make a significant contribution to our economic and cultural life, including collectively generating approximately $122.8 billion in economic activity, $6.5 billion in exports and employing more than 1 million Australians.

Bill (pdf)

EM (pdf)

Minister’s Press Release

Other links


  1. That is a 116ac Category A type activity.  ?
  2. That is a Category B, Category C or Category D type activity.  ?

Blocking injunctions – the Bill

The Commonwealth Government has introduced into Parliament the Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill 2015. This bill will implement the second (or third) of the Government’s online infringement proposals.

The Bill would insert a new s 115A into the Act. Under s 115A, a copyright owner would have a right to apply to the Federal Court for an injunction against a carriage service provider[1] requiring the carriage service provider to take reasonable steps to block access to on online location outside Australia the primary purpose of which is to infringe copyright (whether in Australia or not).

The EM is at pains to stress that the website must be outside Australia – otherwise the copyright owner could sue directly – and its primary purpose must be copyright infringement. Thus, the EM says services like Youtube, iTunes and so on would not be exposed to the risk of injunction.

The bill does not prescribe what steps would be reasonable (to attempt) to block access, but presumably guidance may be sought from English decisions on this issue.

In deciding whether or not to grant the injunction, the Court will be directed to take into account a range of factors including, in particular, the flagrancy of the infringement and the proportionality of blocking access to the extent of the infringement.

Provision is also made for the person operating the website to be, or become, a party to the proceeding and to apply after an injunction has been granted for it to be rescinded or varied.

The carriage service provider will be liable for costs only if it enters an appearance and takes part in the proceedings. The bill does not make provision for whom should bear the costs of implementing and maintaining the injunction.

The injunctions provided by the English courts include a mechanism for copyright holders to “update” the webiste addresses so that, if the website operator changes the URL, it is an administrative exercise to notify the ISP. The Bill does not appear specifically to contemplate this, and it is unclear whether the Federal Court would, or should, adopt such a mechanism.

In addition to discussion of blocking methods, the Cartier[2] ruling in England includes an interesting discussion of the costs of such applications and also the costs incurred by the ISPs in implementing the injunctions. Apparently, after the initial cases, such an application typically cost the copyright owners around £14,000 with a further fee of around £3,600 per year per website for monitoring. The costs to ISPs reported by the judge ranged from a “low four figure sum per month” to a “low six figure sum a year”.

The Cartier case concerned websites infringing trade marks, not copyright. One might wonder whether the Australian law should also extend to trade marks?

The Senate has referred the Bill to its Legal and Constitutional Affairs committee for review. There is plainly not much to discuss about the bill, as the committee is due to report back by 13 May 2015 and you must make your submissions, if any, by 16 April 2015.

Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill 2015 (pdf)
Explanatory Memorandum (pdf)


  1. For you and me, that’s Telstra, Optus, iiNet/TPG, Foxtel etc., but real lawyers should go via s10 to here (take a tent and all necessary provisions and we’ll see you in several years).  ?
  2. Also known as Richemont after the third claimant.  ?

Copyright safe harbour scheme review Mk 2

Last Friday, the Commonwealth Attorney-General released a Consultation Paper on ‘Revising the Scope of the Copyright Safe Harbour Scheme’.

As reported then, there were two components to that review.

Over the weekend, the second component – streamlining the notice and take down procedures – has been edited out of the revised version (pdf) (doc version via here).

So now, the consultation paper just relates to re-defining “carriage service provider“.

There’s a fact sheet on how the scheme currently works. Unfortunately, the links to the previous review and submissions seem to have been taken down.

Last Friday’s post referred to the US-Australia Free Trade Agreement. The relevant provision is in chapter 17. So far as the protections apply to service providers, Art. 17.11 paragraph 29 provides:

(xii) For the purposes of the function referred to in clause (i)(A), service provider means a provider of transmission, routing, or connections for digital online communications without modification of their content between or among points specified by the user of material of the user’s choosing, and for the purposes of the functions referred to in clause (i)(B) through (D), service provider means a provider or operator of facilities for online services or network access.

This may be contrasted with the corresponding provision in the “parent” of article 17.11, §512(k) (pdf) of the US Copyright Act which defines service provider for the purposes of the DMCA safe harbours as follows:

(1) Service provider.—(A) As used in subsection (a), the term “service provider” means an entity offering the transmission, routing, or providing of connections for digital online communications, between or among points specified by a user, of material of the user’s choosing, without modification to the content of the material as sent or received. (B) As used in this section, other than subsection (a), the term “service provider” means a provider of online services or network access, or the operator of facilities therefor, and includes an entity described in sub- paragraph (A).

At least, the US definition appears to make it clear that a service provider may be one who provides services not just, as the Australian legislation seems to have been drafted to reflect, only providers, or operators, of facilities for such services. Given the nebulous nature of the term ‘facilities’, however, that may be a difference more imagined than real.

Although it doesn’t provide any “binding” authority like the Free Trade Agreement, the EU directives proceed on the basis of persons providing “information society services”. See e.g. art.s 12 -15 of the E-Commerce Directive, DIRECTIVE 2000/31/EC (pdf).

Lid dip: Leanne O’Donnell.

Notice and take down

If you have to send a take down notice to someone under the DMCA, send it to them and not their parent:

Prof. Goldman here; Plagiarism Today here.

Under our legislation, the notice must be sent to the carriage service provider’s “designated representative” (Reg. 20D) and the carriage service provider must publish a notice on its website prominently identifying the designated representative, and their contact details, to whom such notices should be sent: Reg. 20C.

Of course, all this begs the question, what on earth (or in cyberspace) is a “carriage service provider”? (Unhelpful) hint via s 10 of the Copyright Act, look at s 87 of the Telecommunications Act 1997.