The UK Opens Up Public Sector Information 29/10/2010

On 30 September 2010, the UK Government released the first version of its Open Government Licence for public sector information. This heralds a new framework for access and use of government data and provides an interesting precedent for Australia.

 

Following an extensive inquiry into how to provide greater access to public sector information (PSI), the UK Government has released the Open Government Licence (OGL), which allows relevant government information and data to be copied, published, distributed, transmitted, adapted and exploited in both non-commercial and commercial applications.

 

The OGL will apply to a variety of eligible crown copyright materials, databases and software source codes, and materials formerly available under the Click-Use Licence (which had to be specifically applied for). The OGL will not apply to personal data, data containing certain third party rights and data subject to other intellectual property rights. A more detailed list of what is covered by the licence can be viewed at: http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/information-management/government-licensing/about-the-ogl.htm

 

The OGL is royalty-free, perpetual, non-exclusive and granted worldwide. The key condition of use is that information sources be attributed: either by using wording specified by the particular information provider or, if unavailable, by using wording suggested in the OGL licence itself. The OGL also requires that the PSI should not be used in a misleading way or in a way that suggests government endorsement of a particular application. Additionally, the data cannot be used in a way that violates overarching privacy and data protection regimes.

 

The UK’s implementation of open licensing will no doubt be watched closely in Australia. In December 2009, Australia’s Government 2.0 Taskforce released the report Engage: Getting on with Government 2.0, which made a number of recommendations on how to make Australian PSI more accessible. When the Government responded to the report (May 2010), it supported most of the Taskforce’s 13 recommendations, while rejecting the call for responsibility for Crown Copyright and licensing be removed from the Attorney General’s Department and placed with the (proposed) Office of the Information Commissioner (or the lead agency responsible for Government 2.0).

The Government’s response supported the notion of ‘open attribution’ licensing for PSI but stopped short of endorsing the Taskforce’s recommendation that works covered by Crown Copyright should be automatically licensed under a Creative Commons BY licence. Instead, it stated, “the selection and use of an appropriate open attribution license will remain the responsibility of [Government] agencies on a case-by-case basis”.[1]

 

The Attorney General’s Department is currently developing guidelines for use by Government agencies in licensing their PSI, which it expects to release at the end of the year. The guidelines will define what does and does not constitute PSI, and are likely to opt for a more narrow definition than that recommended by the Taskforce.

 

[1] The Government response to the Taskforce report is available from: http://www.finance.gov.au/publications/govresponse20report/index.html

 

For more information on the UKGLF, see: http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/information-management/uk-gov-licensing-framework.htm

 

For the OGL terms, see: http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/doc/open-government-licence/open-government-licence.htm

 

The Australian Government 2.0 Taskforce Report is available from: http://www.finance.gov.au/publications/gov20taskforcereport/index.html

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African states join together on historic IP protocol 29/10/2010

Nine African states have signed a new protocol for the protection of traditional knowledge and folklore, which WIPO Director General, Dr Francis Gurry, describes as a “significant milestone” in the evolution of intellectual property.

 

Known as the Swakopmund Protocol on the Protection of Traditional Knowledge and Expressions of Folklore, the protocol covers traditional knowledge as well as various form of cultural expression, including verbal and musical expression, expression by movement and tangible expression such as artwork.

 

Its purpose is to “protect traditional knowledge holders against infringement of their rights” and “protect expressions of folklaw against misappropriation, misuse and unlawful exploitation beyond their traditional context”[1].

 

Signatories to the new protocol are all members of the African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation (ARIPO).

 

Their agreement is an important step in continuing progress towards a distinct protection for traditional cultural heritage rights. Generally, principles of copyright and intellectual property law are not well suited to protecting cultural heritage (e.g. limitations on the duration of copyright protection). At the global level, the WIPO Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore is working on creating an international legal instrument for the protection in this area[2].

 

In Australia, the controversy that recently ensued over the Wanjina Watchers in the Whispering Stone sculpture, commissioned by gallery owner Vesna Tenodi and displayed on a property in the Blue Mountains, is a good example of the issues at play. The sculpture depicted a sacred Wanjina image, which, according to Aboriginal law should only be depicted by certain Aboriginal people[3]. However, there is nothing to prevent the general use of a concept or idea according to ordinary principles of copyright.

 

The new African protocol will come into force once six member states deposit instruments of ratification or accession. It is also open to any member of the African Union or the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.

 

The full text of the Protocol is available at: http://www.aripo.org/

 

[1] Section 1.1 of the Protocol

[2] See: http://www.wipo.int/tk/en/igc/index.html

[3] Sydney Morning Herald, Tim Elliott, 20/3/2010, http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/art-and-design/art-battle-turns-ugly-as-aborigines-condemn-sculptures-sacred-image-20100319-qm1g.html

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UK and China partner in copyright MoU 29/10/2010

China and the United Kingdom (UK) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), stating mutual goals of strategic cooperation on copyright. The agreement comes at a time when domestic IP protection is on the agenda for both nations.

 

In signing the MoU for the UK’s Intellectual Property Office, Baroness Wilcox noted that UK firms will be assisted in understanding and accessing the Chinese market, and both nations will focus on ways of stemming the negative effects that piracy and counterfeiting can have on creativity and innovation[1]. The MoU aims to increase consultation on best practice and cooperation on copyright-related policy and training. It does not affect either country’s IP legislation.

 

Both China and the UK have been engaged with IP protection at the domestic level this year. In the UK, the Digital Economy Act was introduced in April 2010, establishing a new regime of copyright protection focused on online infringement, including peer-to-peer filesharing. In China, authorities have embarked on a number of high-profile crackdowns, including recent warnings to over a dozen high-profile video hosting websites (reported to constitute 80 per cent of the video hosting market), the closure of a major distributor of counterfeit Microsoft software, and assisting in action against Chinese producers of counterfeit Scotch Whiskey.

 

China faces an uphill battle in copyright enforcement due to very high domestic piracy levels. One of the contributing factors is easy access to a wide range of cheap, infringing material, made even more tempting by the fact that many products on the legitimate market are relatively expensive[2]. China's IP protection regime received an unfavourable assessment from the US earlier this year and China was placed on the US priority watch list for infringement. The US noted, however, that when Chinese authorities did take action to protect IP rights, they tended to be quite effective.

 

In a recent keynote address, Chinese IP law expert Richard L. Thurston expressed the view that in addressing domestic IP enforcement[3], China should pursue a home-grown solution, which might quite be different to the approach in the West. Thurston also predicted that the process was likely to be fairly slow.

 

The Wall Street Journal recently reported on a meeting between software entrepreneur Bill Gates and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, in which Gates expressed the view that China was not moving fast enough in strengthening its IP protection domestically[4]. While acknowledging the problem of piracy, the Premier said that China was taking steps to address it and was motivated to do so because of its desire to be viewed, in future, not simply as a manufacturing base but as a creative and innovation-oriented economy.

 

So, as the creative industries grow in China, so too will the focus on the strength of the IP frameworks that protect them.

 

[1] See the press release at: http://www.ipo.gov.uk/about/press/press-release/press-release-2010/press-release-20100903.htm

[2] Kan, Michael “China Video Sites May Mean Dollars for Hollywood” PC World 23/9/2010 - http://www.pcworld.com/article/206040/china_video_sites_may_mean_dollars_for_hollywood.htm

[3] Lina, Yang (ed) “Innovation, IP to be core element of China's economic growth” Xinhuanet 29/9/2010 - http://news.xinhuanet.com/english2010/business/2010-09/29/c_13535349.htm

[4] Fairclough, Gordon “Chinese Premier Pushes Back Against U.S. Criticism” The Wall Street Journal 23/9/2010 http://online.wsj.com/article/SB20001424052748704814204575507800484994816.html

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ISPs and Copyright Owners: Friends or Foes? 29/10/2010

The litigation currently underway in Australia between the internet service provider iiNet and a group of film and television companies is one chapter in a much bigger story currently playing out around the world. This month’s feature article looks at ISPs and online infringement of copyright, and investigates the likelihood that ISPs and copyright owners may be friends rather than foes in the future.

 

From Korea, to France, to the United States, to New Zealand, developed economies are wrestling with the question of how to conscript Internet service providers (ISPs) in the fight against illegal peer-to-peer (P2P) filesharing and other widespread forms of online copyright infringement. Some countries have opted for a legislative solution, while others, including Australia, are testing the issue in the courts. Still others say the best way to proceed is to bring ISPs to the table with copyright owners, to develop voluntary industry codes.

 

The precise impact of online infringement cannot be measured, but the music industry has been on the frontline of P2P filesharing (partly because of the relatively small size of music files) and the worldwide decline in sales of recorded music in the last five years has been well documented. With the spread of faster broadband services, other forms of copyright materials, such as books, film and television shows, games and software are also being illegally shared in increasing volumes.

 

Graduated response

 

The solution generally sought by copyright owners is some form of ‘graduated response’ by the ISPs. ‘Graduated response’ describes an enforcement approach in which ISPs send warning notices to subscribers once informed about infringing activity. The specifics vary depending on the jurisdiction but graduated response schemes generally operate as follows:

 

• Rightsholders monitor the Internet for infringing behaviour by subscribers, and collect IP addresses of such subscribers and evidence of infringements;

• Rightsholders give this information to an infringing user’s ISP to pass on warning notices to the subscriber;

• If, after a specified number of warnings, further infringing activity by the user continues, then some kind of punitive action is to be taken against that user (e.g. account suspension, account termination, throttling Internet speed, a ‘walled garden’, a fine).

 

When detecting infringing activity, copyright owners can only retrieve a subscriber’s IP address and can only link this to an individual with data from the ISP. This is why cooperation between copyright owner groups and ISPs is integral to any graduated response scheme.

 

United Kingdom

 

The United Kingdom is currently implementing a graduated response program, following the introduction of the Digital Economy Act in 2010. In the first phase – scheduled to commence in early 2011 – ISP activity will be limited to issuing warning notices, which are expected to serve as a deterrent to infringement, as well as educate people that may not actually know their downloading activity is illegal. Once an ISP obligations code has been in force for 12 months, the telecommunications regulator Ofcom will determine whether ISPs should be obliged to take technical measures against problem infringers. Parliament must approve both the Ofcom report on the need for technical measures and the proposed measures themselves.

 

Cost is one of the key issues in any graduated response scheme. It is generally assumed that copyright owners will pay the cost of detecting infringement, but who should pay the cost of notification has been hotly disputed. In the UK, the Government announced in September that the cost of notification is to be split 75:25 between copyright owners and ISPs. The Government’s decision stated: “Calls by ISPs and consumer groups for all costs to fall to copyright owners were…rejected. Placing part of the costs on ISPs mean they have a real incentive to ensure they adopt the most effective and efficient process in processing CIRs and issuing notifications.”[1]

 

A variety of other graduated response schemes are currently in different stages of implementation in South Korea, Taiwan, France, Sweden and New Zealand, while the European Parliament recently pledged its support for the creation of new European copyright law to help reduce digital infringement.

 

The latest IP enforcement policy statement by the US backs away from a government role in graduated response, only going so far as to “encourage cooperative efforts within the business community to reduce Internet piracy”[2].

 

Irish High Court Decision

 

In Ireland, as in Australia, the issue went to court, with the Irish Recorded Music Association (IRMA) and a number of member companies suing Ireland's largest ISP, Eircom, for allowing its services to be used for infringing activity. In February 2009, the parties came to an out-of-court settlement under which Eircom agreed to adopt measures that would include informing, warning and, in the circumstance of continuing infringing activity, suspending the subscriber.

 

This led to questions from Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner about the appropriateness of the settlement and its compliance with Irish privacy law. The matter then went to the Irish High Court, which in April 2010 found that IP addresses collected for the purpose of graduated response did not constitute personal data. As a result of the court’s decision, Eircom began implementing a graduated response scheme in May 2010.

 

However, this win for copyright owners was short-lived. In October 2010 the High Court ruled in favour of another ISP – a company called UPC – in a legal action brought by four major record labels seeking to force UPC to adopt a ‘three strikes’ graduated response policy (i.e. disconnection for repeated infringement after three warnings). The High Court ruled that laws to identify and cut off internet users for copyright infringement were not enforceable in Ireland, even though illegal downloading “undermines” the business of the recording companies and “ruins the ability of a generation of creative people in Ireland, and elsewhere, to establish a viable living”. The judgement also noted that this gap in Irish legislation meant Ireland was not complying with European law.

 

The Irish Minister for Communications has since announced his intention to meet with representatives from the music industry and internet providers to “formulate an agreed approach”[3].

 

The politics

 

Experience shows that graduated response generates polarised political debate wherever it is on the agenda. Arguments of those in favour include the following:

 

- Graduated response offers a way for copyright owners to focus their legal attention on repeat infringers and avoid litigating against users that aren’t a significant threat;

- By using a system of tiered warnings, it allows infringing users the opportunity to correct their behaviour without having to interact with law enforcement or courts;

- If successful, the benefits of reduced copyright infringement flow back into the creative industries and the economy in general.

 

On the other side, critics argue that:

 

- Graduated response violates users’ rights to privacy, both through increased monitoring of Internet user behaviour and identification of users;

- Internet access is akin to a utility service and measures aimed at suspending or terminating access exceed the bounds of appropriate punishment for copyright infringement;

- Instead of stopping infringing activity, graduated response schemes simply encourage infringers to find new methods;

- Governments could use copyright infringement as a guise to block access to information deemed politically undesirable.

 

Friends or Foes?

 

ISPs frequently assert that the solution to online infringement is for copyright owners to offer new business models, which make legitimate online content more accessible and affordable. Copyright owners counter that they already offer a wide range of new models but that no business model can compete against ‘free’.

 

But while the ISPs and copyright owners are ostensibly on opposite sides of the debate, it may be that over time their interests become more aligned. Within the business divisions of their respective corporations, they are already doing deals with one another (e.g. in Australia, streamed music through AAPT Unlimited; movies, TV shows and sport through Telstra’s T-Box). Consequently, some commentators predict this trend will continue until the overriding interest of both groups lies in consumers paying for legitimate content online.

 

For this reason some copyright owners advocate an agreed industry code rather than legislation or litigation as the best way to introduce effective graduated response. This route involves ISPs and copyright owners sitting down at the table, possibly facilitated by government, to agree on the best way to organise an effective graduated response scheme in a particular territory.

 

Developments in Australia

 

In Australia, the copyright industries contribute 10.3 per cent of the country’s GDP[4]. The rollout of the National Broadband Network (NBN) will provide even greater scope for these content businesses but will also increase the capacity for online infringement.

 

In 2010, an academic study found that 27.8 per cent of Australian Internet users admitted to using file-sharing services like BitTorrent to access content illegally[5]. This was up from 23.6 per cent in 2008, indicating that the problem was growing.

 

However, looking at the issue from another perspective, a 2009 study commissioned by Australia’s Intellectual Property Awareness Foundation[6] found that 73 per cent of Australians would stop illegal file-sharing if they received a notice from their ISP alerting them they were in breach of the terms and conditions of their account. It is this kind of outcome that many advocates of graduate response are counting on.

 

In the 2009 report Australia’s Digital Economy: Future Directions, the Government recognised a “public policy interest” in reaching a solution to online infringement[7]. The report stated: “On the one hand, the Australian economy benefits from a sustainable content industry and from a general respect for legal rights. On the other hand, issues relating to due process and consumer privacy are important. The Government is currently working with representatives of both copyright owners and the Internet industry in an effort to reach an industry-led consensus on an effective solution to this issue.”

 

The dialogue between the parties came to a halt when 34 American and Australian film and television companies commenced legal action against iiNet, claiming that iiNet had authorised the illegal filesharing of films and television shows by its subscribers. The case commenced in the Federal Court in October 2009 and a decision, in favour of iiNet, was handed down in February 2010. Both sides appealed the decision; the appeal was heard in August and a decision is expected by the end of the year. However, it is likely there will be further appeal to the High Court, so it may take one to two years more for the case to be finally resolved. In any event, as the Federal Court’s Justice Emmett stated during the appeal, “Whatever we decide in this case is not necessarily going to resolve what might still have to be disputed in the future”.

 

Some copyright owners have echoed this sentiment, saying the case necessarily refers to specific infringements and will therefore have no broad, long-term application.

 

Until very recently, the Government has expressed its preference for an “industry-led consensus” on the issue. However a recent article in the Australian Financial Review[8] quoted the Attorney General as saying that the Government wanted to “bring the Copyright Act up to date in light of the current technologies” and that such a process would benefit from a review by the Australian Law Reform Commission. It is likely that if the review goes ahead, one of the issues on the agenda will be ISP responsibility for illegal filesharing.

 

Some copyright industries in Australia are in favour of a very active role for the Government, through legislation to support graduated response. Other content providers would prefer a more industry-based solution, with an industry code on graduated response developed and agreed to by ISPs and copyright owners, and administered either by the industry itself or a body such as the Australian Communications and Media Authority.

 

If Internet companies continue to diversify into content provision, and grow their income from copyright works, it may be that the more fluid option of an industry code becomes the most attractive option for all parties.

 

[1] Department for Business Innovation & Skills, Online Infringement of Copyright (Initial Obligations) Cost Sharing, HM Government Response, September 2010.

[2] 2010 Joint Strategic Plan on Intellectual Property Enforcement, Executive Office of the President of the United States, June 2010. P. 17.

[3] Irish Times.com, 11/10/10, http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/breaking/2010/1011/breaking32.html?via=mr

[4] Making The Intangible Tangible, The Economic Contribution of Australia’s Copyright Industries, by PricewaterhouseCoopers, prepared for the Australian Copyright Council, 2008.

[5] ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation, 17 May 2010 – available at http://www.cci.edu/publications/digital-futures-2010.

[6] Sycamore Research and Marketing November 2009, commissioned by IPAF.

[7] Australia’s Digital Economy: Future Directions, Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, 2009. P. 38.

[8] AFR, by James Eyers, 24 September 2010. P.18.

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Arts Minister flags breakthrough in ACTA talks 08/10/2010

In his new role as Australia’s Minister for the Arts, Simon Crean has issued a joint media release with Craig Emerson, the Minister for Trade, announcing a breakthrough in negotiations on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA).

 

Negotiations on the intellectual property enforcement agreement ACTA have been underway for three years, with the latest round of talks, in Tokyo, in September and October, producing the breakthrough: “Only a very few remaining issues now await resolution,” said the joint media release.

 

Countries participating in the ACTA negotiations are Australia, Canada, the European Union, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, Switzerland and the United States.

 

Since the outset, the Australian Government has said that its involvement in ACTA is about encouraging other countries to adopt the same standards of intellectual property enforcement as already exist in Australia. “ACTA will provide the same strong and balanced approach to copyright enforcement that Australia has at home,” Crean said.

 

Despite this assurance, the negotiations have encountered strong opposition from some quarters in both Australia and other participating countries, essentially concerned that ACTA may go too far in protecting the interests of IP rightsholders.

 

Ministers Crean and Emerson said the agreement would support the development of Australia’s creative and knowledge-intensive industries, by promoting a more secure trading environment.

 

“Internationalising these standards will support our creative arts industries – in film, music and other areas – and result in more sustainable jobs in the arts”, Crean said.

 

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US Introduces New Copyright Exemptions 30/07/2010

The US Library of Congress has announced six new exemptions under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) – including circumventing protected DVDs and phones in some instances.

The DMCA regulates how copyright material is dealt with in digital and online spheres, and includes provisions that prohibit circumvention of certain technological protection measures (TPMs) used to protect copyright works.

 

However, the DMCA allows particular classes of works to be exempted if TPMs are found to have an adverse effect on a user’s ability to make non-infringing uses of those works. The US Library of Congress reviews and determines which classes are to be exempted every three years, following public consultations and hearings.

 

The current determinations were released on July 26th 2010, and the exempted classes are:

• DVDs: Users will be allowed to circumvent protected DVDs if using a short portion of a motion picture for criticism or comment and if the use fits within one of three contexts: (i) educational use in universities by professors and film and media students, (ii) documentary filmmaking, or (iii) in non-commercial videos.

• Jailbreaking: TPMs on phones (such as Apple’s iPhone) that lock the device to a single platform can be circumvented in order to run non-infringing third-party software.

• Carriers: Users will be able to circumvent protection on their phones where it locks a phone to a particular carrier.

• Video Games: Video game TPMs can be circumvented if done for the good faith purpose of testing or investigating security flaws. Information gathered during testing cannot be used to infringe copyright and must be used within a security-promotion context.

• Dongles: Dongles (hardware keys that are used to protect software being run on unauthorised machines) can be circumvented if they are no longer commercially available or obsolete.

• E-Books: If no audio version is available, the TPMs in e-books can be circumvented for the purpose of having the text converted to speech/read-aloud formats.

 

These exemptions will be valid only until the next review - in three years’ time. Stakeholders must re-apply if they wish the exceptions to continue in the next determination.

 

For more information, see the US Library of Congress website at: http://www.copyright.gov/1201/

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