No copyright in newspaper headlines

Bennett J’s reasons for ruling that Fairfax does not hold copyright in the Australian Financial Review’s headlines have now been published.

In conclusion, Bennett J stated:

159 As to the subsistence of copyright in the contended works, I have reached the following conclusions:

  • None of the ten selected headlines are capable of being literary works in which copyright can subsist.
  • Fairfax has failed to prove that any of the ten selected Article/Headline Combination is a discrete work of joint authorship in which copyright can subsist.
  • Copyright subsists in the Article Compilation and the Edition Work in each of the June and November editions as original literary works and this copyright is owned by Fairfax.
160 Reed takes the whole of each headline. As to whether Reed, in reproducing and communicating headlines of the AFR as part of the Abstracts, takes a substantial part of any of the contended works:
  • Even if the Article/Headline Combination constitutes a copyright work, Reed does not take a substantial part of such a work.
  • Reed does not take a substantial part of either the Article Compilation or the Edition Work.
161 Although it is not necessary to decide whether Reed is entitled to rely on the defences claimed, I nonetheless consider that:
  • Reed’s conduct in reproducing and communicating the AFR headlines as part of the Abstracts is a fair dealing for the purpose of reporting news such that Reed’s conduct would not constitute an infringement of copyright by reason of s 42(1)(b) of the Act;
  • Fairfax is not estopped from asserting that Reed’s reproduction and communication of AFR headlines in the Abstracts as part of the ABIX service amounts to infringement of its copyright in the contended works.
162 It follows that Fairfax’s application should be dismissed.

[160] is strikingly reminiscent of her Honour’s ruling at first instance in IceTV. As you will see from [161], her Honour also addressed the fair dealing defence and rejected Reed’s argument that Fairfax was estopped.

While the courts have been careful not to say there can never be copyright in film titles and the like, one wonders, if there wasn’t copyright in The Man Who Broke The Bank at Monte Carlo, whatever were they thinking?

The Australian (rather ironically given News Corp’s campaign) has some fun at Fairfax’ expense picking out some key points and repeats Alan Kohler’s question what would they have achieved commercially even if they succeeded?

Fairfax Media Publications Pty Ltd v Reed International Books Australia Pty Ltd [2010] FCA 984

Who owns the news?

For those who didn’t make it to last week’s IPRIA / CMCL /MBS Cite seminar, the organisers have helpfully posted the videos and some of the slides.

Of course, from a purely legalistic point of view, the copyright owner owns at least his/her/its “expression” of the news and, as the various attempts to set up pay-walls and the like expose, website owners can “block” Google/Bing’s spiders and linking if they really, really want to (see Danny Sullivan via here).

Over at Techcrunch, John Biggs speculates that paywalls and the era of micro-payments are coming. Meanwhile, the Guardian appears to be making a bid to become the blogosphere’s source of reported news (lid dip, @lods1211) which might be thought of as an application of Jeff Jarvis’ What Would Google Do?

Now, I’m all in favour of News Corp trying to put the lid on linking to its websites and the Guardian taking a different strategy. Afterall, that might be thought the essence of competition. More generally, however, do we really want to develop some additional legal protection that makes linking (when it is not technologically blocked) some sort of infringement?

Wouldn’t that mean “Bye bye world wide web” (as we know and use it)?

Selected microblog posts for week ending 21/8/09


What the EU Commissioner said on the Internet and Downloading

Commissioner Reding, the EU’s Commissioner for information society and media, has attracted a degree of attention planning an overhaul of internet downloading rules.

Her comments were part of a wide ranging speech on what the EU is doing and will be doing about broadband, access and …. So, what did she actually say?

After identifying access to digital content as the first of 4 priority issues, Ms Reding said:

1. My first and most important priority for Digital Europe is: To make it easier and more attractive to access digital content, wherever produced in Europe. The availability of attractive content that appeals to European viewers, listeners and readers will be decisive in driving further the take-up of high-speed broadband internet. It is therefore regrettable that we currently have an extremely polarised debate on the matter: While many right holders insist that every unauthorised download from the internet is a violation of intellectual property rights and therefore illegal or even criminal, others stress that access to the internet is a crucial fundamental right. Let me be clear on this: Both sides are right. The drama is that after long and often fruitless battles, both camps have now dug themselves in their positions, without any signs of opening from either side.
In the meantime, internet piracy appears to become more and more “sexy”, in particular for the digital natives already, the young generation of intense internet users between 16 and 24. This generation should become the foundation of our digital economy, of new innovation and new growth opportunities. However, Eurostat figures show that 60% of them have downloaded audiovisual content from the internet in the past months without paying. And 28% state that they would not be willing to pay.
These figures reveal the serious deficiencies of the present system. It is necessary to penalise those who are breaking the law. But are there really enough attractive and consumer-friendly legal offers on the market? Does our present legal system for Intellectual Property Rights really live up to the expectations of the internet generation? Have we considered all alternative options to repression? Have we really looked at the issue through the eyes of a 16 year old? Or only from the perspective of law professors who grew up in the Gutenberg Age? In my view, growing internet piracy is a vote of no-confidence in existing business models and legal solutions. It should be a wake-up call for policy-makers.
I f we do not, very quickly, make it easier and more consumer-friendly to access digital content, we could lose a whole generation as supporters of artistic creation and legal use of digital services. Economically, socially, and culturally, this would be a tragedy. It will therefore be my key priority to work, in cooperation with other Commissioners, on a simple, consumer-friendly legal framework for accessing digital content in Europe’s single market, while ensuring at the same time fair remuneration of creators. Digital Europe can only be built with content creators on board; and with the generation of digital natives as interested users and innovative consumers .

1. My first and most important priority for Digital Europe is: To make it easier and more attractive to access digital content, wherever produced in Europe. The availability of attractive content that appeals to European viewers, listeners and readers will be decisive in driving further the take-up of high-speed broadband internet. It is therefore regrettable that we currently have an extremely polarised debate on the matter: While many right holders insist that every unauthorised download from the internet is a violation of intellectual property rights and therefore illegal or even criminal, others stress that access to the internet is a crucial fundamental right. Let me be clear on this: Both sides are right. The drama is that after long and often fruitless battles, both camps have now dug themselves in their positions, without any signs of opening from either side.

In the meantime, internet piracy appears to become more and more “sexy”, in particular for the digital natives already, the young generation of intense internet users between 16 and 24. This generation should become the foundation of our digital economy, of new innovation and new growth opportunities. However, Eurostat figures show that 60% of them have downloaded audiovisual content from the internet in the past months without paying. And 28% state that they would not be willing to pay.

These figures reveal the serious deficiencies of the present system. It is necessary to penalise those who are breaking the law. But are there really enough attractive and consumer-friendly legal offers on the market? Does our present legal system for Intellectual Property Rights really live up to the expectations of the internet generation? Have we considered all alternative options to repression? Have we really looked at the issue through the eyes of a 16 year old? Or only from the perspective of law professors who grew up in the Gutenberg Age? In my view, growing internet piracy is a vote of no-confidence in existing business models and legal solutions. It should be a wake-up call for policy-makers.

I f we do not, very quickly, make it easier and more consumer-friendly to access digital content, we could lose a whole generation as supporters of artistic creation and legal use of digital services. Economically, socially, and culturally, this would be a tragedy. It will therefore be my key priority to work, in cooperation with other Commissioners, on a simple, consumer-friendly legal framework for accessing digital content in Europe’s single market, while ensuring at the same time fair remuneration of creators. Digital Europe can only be built with content creators on board; and with the generation of digital natives as interested users and innovative consumers .

She then gave 2 examples.

The first was facilitating online licensing across all 27 member states. [Why stop there? As Prof. Gans has pointed out, albeit inaccurately under the rubric of parallel imports, this is a global problem.]

The second is to create a modern set of rules to encourage the digitisation of books:

Let us be very clear: if we do not reform our European copyright rules on orphan works and libraries swiftly, digitisation and the development of attractive content offers will not take place in Europe, but on the other side of the Atlantic. Only a modern set of consumer-friendly rules will enable Europe’s content to play a strong part in the digitisation efforts that has already started all around the globe. (The Commissioner’s emphasis)

Read the full text of the Commissioner’s speech here (the downloading wars start about 80% of the way ‘down’).

The idea of looking at the issue from the eyes of 16 year olds, rather than people who grew up in the 50s and 60s, is rather Lessig-ian (watch the Ted Talk video).

Bit of a stretch, blaming the law professors though!

Meanwhile, the very same day, Euro publishers, demonstrating the “us” versus “them” mentality Commissioner Reding criticised, took the opportunity to open another front on their war against Google, linking and aggregating. Publishers’ announcement and Hamburg declaration via here.

post-publication postscript: Chris Anderson from Wired on “Free”, reviewed in NYT.

Linking should infringe?

Judge Posner (of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in the USA) writing extra-judicially on his blog has stirred up a maelstron in the blogosphere with a typically  thoughtful and provocative post contending that linking to websites should be copyright infringement. (At the time of writing, there are only 211 comments!)

Less contentiously (at least in terms of blogosphere reaction), Prof Becker’s reaction is that newspapers are doomed:

That the Internet is a more efficient provider of news and opinion than newspapers is seen in the fact that hardly anyone under age 40 now reads papers. Readership is also declining among older persons ….

Although the printed newspaper industry is doomed, and will be missed by those of us that remember newspapers in their heyday, they are being replaced by good substitutes in the form of blogs, social networks like Facebook and Twitter, online news gathering by various groups, including newspapers, and other electronic forms of communication. People in democracies will continue to have access to independent and often quite accurate, reports on events in their own countries and most other parts of the world.

from The Social Cost of the Decline of Newspapers? Becker

Marty Schwimmer rounds up some of the reaction to Judge Posner.

Judge Posner has seized on what is widely seen as a crisis in the newspaper industry. That crisis has led Rupert Murdoch and Associated Press, in particular, to start waging a public relations war against Google. The difficulty is, if they really don’t want the links (and all the incoming traffic), they can block them quite simply.

Read Danny Sullivan’s thoughtful expose of the threadbare nature of these Emperors’ clothes: esp. here and here.

(ps Of course, here in Australia, you do have to be careful you are not linking to websites that contain infringing content themselves – Cooper v Universal.)