Posts Tagged ‘Optus’

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).

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Optus TV Now (no more)

Friday, April 27th, 2012

The Full Court (Finn, Emmett and Bennett JJ) has unanimously allowed the appeal from Rares J’s finding that Optus TV Now did not infringe the copyright held by the AFL, the NRL and Telstra in broadcasts (or films) of the footy.

Based on the summary, the Full Court has found that Optus either made the copies of the broadcast and films or Optus and the subscriber did so jointly.

As Optus was the (or a) maker, it could not rely on the “home taping” defence provided s 111 as the copy was hardly for “private and domestic use”.

This is, of course, the opposite result to that reached by the Second Circuit in the US in the Cartoon Network case in different legislative setting.

The second point would seem to follow necessarily from the first, but the first could render the protection of s 22(6) largely nugatory to those who carry transmissions of infringing material across their networks. The reasoning on this point will need closer consideration. Of course, Optus was storing the copy longer than may be the case of an ISP whose network is used to download some infringing material. Wonder what this provision means?

National Rugby League Investments Pty Limited v Singtel Optus Pty Ltd [2012] FCAFC 59

Lid dip Australian Copyright Council

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Optus wins first round of Optus TV Now!

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

At first instance, Rares J has ruled that Optus’ TV Now service does not infringe the copyright in broadcasts of the AFL or the NRL (its the first round only as, by agreement, leave to appeal to the Full Court was given to whichever party lost before the decision was handed down).

The pressures of time mean that I can only provide a very brief synopsis at this stage: however, his Honour has also published a very helpful Summary in what would probably be considered more user friendly language (and length).

To recap: Optus offered its 3G mobile (cellular) customers – well the personal and small and medium business ones – with a service in which they could choose to record a broadcast of a free to air (FTA) television broadcast. Once a customer chose a recording, Optus’ equipment recorded the FTA transmission (in 4 different formats: PC, Apple, Android and iOS) on Optus’ servers and the customer could then chose to replay the recording at a later time (within 30 days) by having it streamed to their computer, iOS or Android device. All customers got some storage (45 minutes) as part of their subscription, but could pay for more. (For Optus’ descriptions see here and here.)

Back in 2006, the law was amended to make it clear that time shifting (what used to be called home taping such as when people had VCRs) or format shifting of FTA broadcasts for personal use did not infringe copyright in the broadcast or any underlying works. See s. 111.

In finding that there was no infringement, Rares J had to deal with 7 issues. For present purposes, however, the key finding was that it did not make any difference whether or not the customer used their own equipment in their own “house” or the equipment was owned by someone else or located elsewhere.

When the legislation to amend s 111 was introduced it underwent some amendment of its own and Rares J noted that the further amendments were stated to be intended to:

“The bill adds new copyright exceptions that permit the recording or copying of copyright material for private and domestic use in some circumstances. This amendment makes it clear that private and domestic use can occur outside a person’s home as well as inside. The amendment ensures that it is clear that, for example, a person who under new section 109A copies music to an iPod can listen to that music in a public place or on public transport. (Rares J’s emphasis)

and

57 The Minister then explained in the Senate, repeating the words of the Further Supplementary Explanatory Memorandum, why cl 111(1) had been reworded saying (ibid):

“This relates to time shifting. … This amendment substitutes a new section 111(1), which removes the requirement that a recording of a broadcast under section 111 must be made in domestic premises. This amendment provides greater flexibility in the conditions that apply to time-shift recording. The development of digital technologies is likely to result in increasing use of personal consumer devices and other means which enable individuals to record television and radio broadcasts on or off domestic premises. The revised wording of section 111 by this amendment enables an individual to record broadcasts as well as view and listen to the recording outside their homes as well as inside for private and domestic use.” (Rares J’s emphasis)

Thus, it appeared Parliament did not intend to draw a distinction between equipment owned and operated by the viewer in his or her own premises. Accordingly, his Honour considered (at [63]):

… the user of the TV Now service makes each of the films in the four formats when he or she clicks on the “record” button on the TV Now electronic program guide. This is because the user is solely responsible for the creation of those films. He or she decides whether or not to make the films and only he or she has the means of being able to view them. If the user does not click “record”, no films will be brought into existence that he or she can play back later. The service that TV Now offers the user is substantively no different from a VCR or DVR. Of course, TV Now may offer the user a greater range of playback environments than the means provided by a VCR or DVR, although this can depend on the technologies available to the user.

Like the 2nd Circuit in Cartoon Network, his Honour considered (at [66]) that there was no real or sufficient distinction between the characterisation of a user of the service to record a FTA broadcast and someone who used a VCR or DVR to do so.

Rares J noted the careful contractual obligations imposed by Optus to ensure that users promised to use the service only for their own private or domestic purposes and, in recognition of the ordinary experience of life, was prepared to infer that was typically the purpose for which the service was used, even apparently in the case of small and business customers.

The other major issue for comment at present is who makes the communication when the customer pressed the “play” button. Rares J recognised that, in a sense, Optus made the communication as it was its servers which transmitted the stream to the customer. Having regard to the deeming provisions in s 22(6) and (6A), however, his Honour considered that the more correct characterisation was that it was the customer him or herself who made the communication. It was the individual customer who decided what was recorded and who also decided whether, when and to where it was transmitted. In reaching this conclusion, Rares J distinguished the situation in Roadshow where a Full Court had found that there could be a communication to the public by transmission of Bittorrent streams between computers without any human intervention. At [91], Rares J considered that the role of the customer of the TV Now service was very different from that of someone who just clicked on a link on a web page. His Honour commented at [95]:

It may appear odd that Optus, which has stored the films in its NAS computer, does not “communicate” (make available online or electronically transmit) the film in the compatible format, but that is because it did nothing to determine the content of that communication. The user initially chose to record the program so that later he or she could choose to play the film so recorded using the TV Now service. Optus’ service enables the user to make those choices and to give effect to them. But in doing so, Optus does not determine what the user decided to record when he or she later decides to play it on the compatible device he or she is then using to watch the film. Hence, the user, not Optus, is the person responsible for determining the content of the communication within the meaning of s 22(6) when he or she plays a film recorded for him or her on the TV Now service. Thus, the user did the act of electronically transmitting the film within the meaning of ss 86(c) and 87(c).

Needless to say, there are quite a few “other” points in Rares J’s 115 paragraphs:

Singtel Optus Pty Ltd v National Rugby League Investments Pty Ltd (No 2) [2012] FCA 34

For a more recent “no volitional act, therefore no infringement” case in the USA see Prof Goldman’s ‘Photobucket Qualifies for the 512(c) Safe Harbor (Again)–Wolk v. Kodak

There seems to have been a similar success in Singapore; but Rares J considered the TV Catch Up case in the UK less helpful as the legislation and type of usage in question was rather different. A question on communication to the public has been referred by the English court to the CJEU.

Lid dip: Copyright Council

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Optus TV Now … 2

Monday, September 19th, 2011

Follow last Friday’s post, in the twittersphere @wenhu points out that s 22(6) defines who the maker of a communication is:

(6)  For the purposes of this Act, a communication other than a broadcast is taken to have been made by the person responsible for determining the content of the communication.

(6A)  To avoid doubt, for the purposes of subsection (6), a person is not responsible for determining the content of a communication merely because the person takes one or more steps for the purpose of:

                     (a)  gaining access to what is made available online by someone else in the communication; or

(b)  receiving the electronic transmission of which the communication consists.

Example:    A person is not responsible for determining the content of the communication to the person of a web page merely because the person clicks on a link to gain access to the page.

It’s a good point, but I’m not sure at first impression why that doesn’t make the subscriber the maker.

Section 22(6) was introduced as part of the legislative clean-up of the mess made in the Music on Hold case –  to make it clear the telephone company was not communicating the music played by the subscriber to a caller when they were placed on hold. For example, para. 40 of the EM explains:

40.    The new s.22(6) provides that a communication other than a broadcast is taken to have been made by the person responsible for the content of the communication.  This provision relies on the extended definition of communicate in Item 6.  The provision has the effect that communications carriers and Internet Service Providers will not be directly liable for communicating material to the public via their networks if they are not responsible for determining the content of that material.

Meanwhile in the comments “Copyright Fanatic” asks why Optus TV Now is any different to using your TIVO at home? That (if the media reports are to be believed) is the $153 million question: is using someone else’s servers in some other point in cadastral space different to using your own equipment in the privacy of your own home?

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Optus TV Now and the threat to sports’ millions

Friday, September 16th, 2011

The media yesterday was splashed with stories about how Optus is threatening the flow of revenues to sports such as the NRL and the AFL through its TV Now service (for example, here and here and here). Hundreds of millions of dollars are apparently at stake.

Basically, it looks like you download an “app” to your phone or computer and you can then record (or perhaps more strictly, instruct Optus to record) a television program being broadcast on free to air television on Optus’ servers and then have the recording streamed to your mobile or computer at a time and place of your choosing – Optus’ promotional video suggests as your sitting on the bus. The media reports suggest you might be able to start watching as soon as 2 minutes after the game program starts broadcasting. There are a few constraints: You have to watch within 30 days of the recording. You can only nominate programs broadcast in the area where your account address is located. It looks like, if you’re an Optus (mobile) subscriber you get 45 minutes storage “free”, but you can “buy” more if you want.

Optus’ version of how it works here and here.

It is billed as just like home taping or recording only for the 21st century.

Optus is reported to be seeking an injunction against the AFL and the NRL to stop them suing it for copyright infringement. In fact, Optus has brought proceedings against both the NRL and the AFL and the first directions hearing was heard by Rares J today: NSD1430/2011. Rares J made timetabling orders for defences (and cross-claims) and evidence with the trial fixed for 19 December 2011.

The injunction part is easy: someone who is on the receiving end of threats of copyright infringement can bring an action for groundless threats of infringement and, if successful, the remedies include an injunction against continuation of the threats and possibly damages for loss suffered.

Presumably, the AFL and/or the NRL sent Optus letters of demand telling it to stop or else. If so, there will be a threat and then it will be over to the AFL and/or the NRL to establish that what Optus is doing infringes their copyright.

In the case of a (largely unscripted) sporting spectacle like a footy final, the copyright is going to subsist only in the broadcast (hmmm, what about the jumpers and logos and ….)

I am guessing (but I don’t know) that the AFL’s and the NRL’s contracts with the broadcasters involve the broadcasters assigning their copyright in the broadcast to, respectively, the AFL and the NRL.

As I haven’t seen Optus’ claim or, more likely, defence to cross-claim, I am also guessing Optus will be relying on s 111 of the Copyright Act:

(1) This section applies if a person makes a cinematograph film or sound recording of a broadcast solely for private and domestic use by watching or listening to the material broadcast at a time more convenient than the time when the broadcast is made. Note: Subsection 10(1) defines broadcast as a communication to the public delivered by a broadcasting service within the meaning of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 . Making the film or recording does not infringe copyright

(2) The making of the film or recording does not infringe copyright in the broadcast or in any work or other subject-matter included in the broadcast.

Note: Even though the making of the film or recording does not infringe that copyright, that copyright may be infringed if a copy of the film or recording is made.

Dealing with embodiment of film or recording

(3) Subsection (2) is taken never to have applied if an article or thing embodying the film or recording is:

(a) sold; or

(b) let for hire; or

(c) by way of trade offered or exposed for sale or hire; or

(d) distributed for the purpose of trade or otherwise; or

(e) used for causing the film or recording to be seen or heard in public; or

(f) used for broadcasting the film or recording.

Note: If the article or thing embodying the film or recording is dealt with as described in subsection (3), then copyright may be infringed not only by the making of the article or thing but also by the dealing with the article or thing.

(4) To avoid doubt, paragraph (3)(d) does not apply to a loan of the article or thing by the lender to a member of the lender’s family or household for the member’s private and domestic use.

The first thing here will be who makes the recording. Will the Optus subscriber’s use of the technology to get a recording made on Optus’ servers (in the cloud) mean that the subscriber is the person who makes the recording or will it be Optus?

If Optus is the person who makes the recording (a) can the subscriber delegate the making to them as an agent or (b) does the recording need to be made for Optus’ private and domestic use or will the private and domestic use of its subscriber suffice?

As to who makes the recording, the US Circuit Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in the rather different legislative setting of the US Copyright Act considered that the party in the position of Optus did not make the recording: Cartoon Network v Cablevision Inc. 536 F. 3d 121.

On the other hand, while recognising the possibility of a person making a fair dealing copy through an agent, in Australia Beaumont J found that a news monitoring service infringed copyright by making clippings of newspaper articles for its clients. While the clients may have had a relevant fair dealing purpose, the news monitoring service’s purpose was not a fair dealing purpose but a commercial purpose of making copies for its clients: De Garis v Nevill Jeffris Pidler Pty Limited [1990] FCA 218.

(You will have noticed that s 111(2) applies to not just to the copyright in the broadcast, but also any other copyright included in the broadcast. So that takes care of the logo, jumpers and all the other copyrights in scripted shows like, er, Home and Away etc.)

Section 111(2) only immunises the making of the recording. What happens when Optus streams the recording back to the subscriber? If it is set up so that the recording is streamed only to the individual subscriber, it will be difficult to call it a broadcast. But is it otherwise a communication to the public? This might turn on whether the communication is made by the subscriber (or his or her agent) to themselves or Optus. In the Music on Hold case (largely superseded now as a result of significant changes in the legislation), Dawson and Gaudron JJ emphasised that the public were people whom the copyright owner might fairly regard as its public and downplayed the number of persons involved. Will the commercial nature of Optus relationship with its subscribers colour the characterisation of this situation?

I guess we will have to wait and see.

Singtel Optus v National Rugby League and the Australian Football League NSD1430/2011.

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Confidentiality, unconscionability and contract

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

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

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Spam Act fine

Monday, January 26th, 2009

Optus has been fined AUD$110,000 under the Spam Act 2003 for sending out 20,000 electronic messages without adequate sender identification.

Peter Black carries the report.

On a different note: why doesn’t Australia have laws against junk faxes?

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