Brandis’ leaked anti-piracy proposal is unrealistic

Originally posted on The Conversation by Nicolas Suzor and Alex Button-Sloan.

The Australian Government has proposed Internet Service Providers (ISPs) should monitor and punish Australians who download and infringe copyright.

In a discussion paper circulated by Attorney-General George Brandis, and leaked by Crikey last Friday, the government proposes a sweeping change to Australian copyright law that would force ISPs to take steps to prevent Australians from infringing copyright.

What these steps might be is very vague. They could include blocking peer-to-peer traffic, slowing down internet connections, passing on warnings from industry groups, and handing over subscriber details to copyright owners.

The move comes in response to claims that Australians are among the biggest downloaders of films and television series. Under intense pressure from Hollywood and Foxtel, the government wants to do something to combat copyright infringement.
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KAFTA copyright language hints at overturning iiNet decision, is wholly unsupported by evidence

Kim Weatherall has an excellent analysis of the proposed IP chapter of the Korea – Australia Free Trade Agreement. You should go read it now. One of the most concerning things is that the agreement would require Australia to give An unclear, potentially extensive undertaking to ‘provide measures’ to ‘curtail’ ‘repeated copyright infringement on the Read more about KAFTA copyright language hints at overturning iiNet decision, is wholly unsupported by evidence[…]

The Marrakesh Treaty could bring the world’s books to the blind

Originally published in The Conversation by Nicolas Suzor and Suzannah Wood.

An estimated 285 million people worldwide are visually impaired. Some 90% of those live in developing nations, where less than 1% of the world’s books are available in a form they can read.

In developed countries, the situation is only marginally better: only around 7% of the world’s books are accessible to print-disabled people.

The right to read is part of our basic human rights. Access to the written word is crucial to allow people to fully participate in society. It’s important for education, political involvement, success in the workplace, scientific progress and, not least, creative play and leisure. Equal access to books and other cultural goods is also required by international law.

The technology now exists to deliver books in accessible electronic forms to people much more cheaply than printing and shipping bulky braille copies or books on tape. Electronic books can be read with screen readers and refreshable braille devices, or printed into large print or braille if needed.

Now that we have this technology, what’s been referred to as the global “book famine” is a preventable tragedy.

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Borrowing a Stairway to Heaven: did Led Zeppelin rip off a riff?

Originally posted in The Conversation by Nicolas Suzor and Eleanor Angel.

More than 40 years after the release of Stairway to Heaven, English rock band Led Zeppelin are facing allegations that its iconic guitar riff was stolen from Taurus, a song released in 1968 by the American rock band Spirit.

The two riffs are clearly similar: they share a four-bar instrumental guitar passage with similar harmony, tempo and stylistic features. Businessweek has created a short game where you can test your skill at telling the two apart.

But is this enough for Spirit to demand a share of the credit – and the royalties?

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Free-riding, cooperation, and ‘peaceful revolutions’ in copyright (post-print draft)

I have a new article in press with the Harvard Journal of Law & Technology. I’m interested in comments on the post-print draft. Abstract:

Modern copyright law is based on the inescapable assumption that users, given the choice, will free-ride rather than pay for access. In fact, many consumers of cultural works – music, books, films, games, and other works – fundamentally want to support their production. It turns out that humans are motivated to support cultural production not only by extrinsic incentives, but also by social norms of fairness and reciprocity. This article explains how producers across the creative industries have used this insight to develop increasingly sophisticated business models that rely on voluntary payments (including pay-what-you-want schemes) to fund their costs of production.

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Some assorted thoughts on the ALRC fair use report

The ALRC Report on Copyright and the Digital Economy was released earlier this month. It’s an extremely thorough and well-reasoned analysis of exceptions in Australian copyright law. The main thrust of the report is to recommend that Australia introduces fair use; in the alternative, the ALRC recommends consolidating the fair dealing defences and expanding the category of uses to which they can apply.

Overall approach

The ALRC adopts a conservative approach here. The suggestions it makes are by no means radical – usually, the ALRC suggests that existing Australian copyright jurisprudence will inform any new law, and the report steers well clear of making any suggestion that fair use would reverse some of the more controversial decisions.

This is the report’s greatest strength. The reasoning is unassailable, and the reforms suggested by the ALRC are mostly in the relatively minor form of clarifications, simplification, and fixes to issues that are commonly understood to be problematic in the current law. The ALRC seeks to build consensus on this limited approach – in such a way that pragmatic law reform might be politically feasible. Where there is real disagreement, the ALRC punts to the courts (in terms of identifying whether existing cases would have different outcomes under fair use) or to future law reform processes.

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Fairness in copyright – or why rates of infringement are so high

Here’s a paragraph from an article I’m writing about free-riding. It distils my argument about the role of fairness in copyright, and why the industry is only harming itself when it does things like make Game of Thrones only available on Foxtel: In recent decades, the copyright industries have been losing the normative high ground. Read more about Fairness in copyright – or why rates of infringement are so high[…]

Michael Geist: Taking user rights seriously — two weeks that changed copyright

At the Global Congress in Cape Town, Michael Geist reflects on the two weeks that changed copyright in Canada in 2012. Canada went from a maximalist copyright trajectory in 2005 to the global champion of user rights in 2012. Canada’s new legislation includes the most favourable provisions for users across a huge range of issues; Read more about Michael Geist: Taking user rights seriously — two weeks that changed copyright[…]

Ruth Okediji: IP rights and the African innovation paradox (Global Congress 2013, Cape Town)

Ruth Okediji makes an argument that we need to resist and avoid consenting and legitimising a system of command and control in IP. Okediji’s starting point is that the essence of the fourth wave of IP geopolitical change is not about harmonisation: it’s about fundamentally de-anchoring IP from the public interest. It’s about a unilateral effort to supra-design an IP system that works for some interests and regions and not others.
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