Thursday Reading, 6 March 2008, 2nd edition

Photography of Justice Michael Kirby

There’s just too much Good Stuff to read today! A speech by Justice Michael Kirby (pictured) to the Internet Industry Association last month, Law making meets technology, is a magnificent summary of the challenge facing legislators (and judges) in the face of rapidly-advancing technology. There’s also related news from Canada, where a bar was ordered to stop scanning people’s ID cards and keeping the data (hat-tip to Threat Level).

BitTorrent vs the Supreme Court of Victoria

Last night Channel Nine screened the crime drama Underbelly everywhere across Australia — except Victoria, where it was banned following a Supreme Court order. But thanks to the joys of BitTorrent, thousands of people have already downloaded it from the Internet. The law cannot cope in this new era.

As the screenshot shows, Underbelly was online within two hours of broadcast. By mid-morning today, 6500+ people had downloaded it from Mininova alone.

Screenshot of Underbelly downloads available on Mininova

As with the Corey Delaney episode before it, this highlights the stupidity of the law in the bold new age of the Internet. I have no complaint with Justice Betty King’s decision. She’s just upholding the law as it stands. The law, alas, is hopelessly inadequate.

Who, I wonder, has this kind of law reform on their agenda. Anyone?

Bonus links:

Sensis’ legal bullying revisited

On 19 January I wrote about Sensis’ lawyers sending legal “nastygrams” to small website owners. Professor Roger Clarke has received a response [PDF file], which we can’t copy and paste because it’s a scan of a printed letter.

Professor Clarke reckons the response is “reasonable enough (as far as it goes)”, and he won’t be taking the matter any further. His article on Lawyers’ ‘Nastygrams’ re Trademarks reminds us that lawyers’ letters often make inappropriate demands on behalf of trademark-owners.

It’s vital that people stand up for their rights, and resist corporations getting away with claims that go beyond the already excessive rights that corporate welfare laws in the ‘intellectual property’ arena grant them.

So, we all should say “the Yellow Pages® directory” to help Sensis prevent their trademark turning into a generic word. Sensis is our friend.

The funniest bit, I think, is that the lawyer’s response reckons the original letter was intended to “encourage the proper use of Sensis trademarks”. Lawyers must have a funny idea about “encouragement”: their “nastygram” was a three-page letter in pompous legalese containing veiled threats [PDF file].

Sensis lawyers bully small fry over Yellow Pages trademark

Section of screenshot of Yellow Pages website taken today

Sensis, the Telstra subsidiary that owns things like the Yellow Pages and Trading Post, has kicked off a legal attack on small websites for “trademark infringement”. Why? Because they haven’t got an ® after every mention of “Yellow Pages”.

Apart from the daftness of attacking little fish, which only makes your company look like a bully, you’ve got to wonder why they’re doing it.

  1. They’re re-branding as “Yellow” anyway. identifies itself as “”, and their new logo just says “Yellow”. Here’s a screenshot of their site as of a few minutes ago.
  2. There doesn’t seem to be any actual trademark infringement. At least not by my reading of some material I’ll mention shortly.

I found out about this yesterday when Professor Roger Clarke posted to the Link mailing list. I’ve become more and more astounded at the stupidity of it all as I’ve read people’s comments…

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Arrest of “teen party host” highlights stupidity of law

Photograph of male youths with pixelated faces

Yesterday a Melbourne teenager was charged with creating a public nuisance and producing child pornography. Reuters tells us he “became a controversial media star after a wild party at his parents’ house became a near riot, forcing police to call in a helicopter and the dog squad”. Hands up if you think you know his name.

Now, keep your hands up if you’re completely bloody sure you know his name.

OK, hands down.

Yet again we see how Australia’s laws have failed to adapt to the Internet age.

Everybody and their dog, globally, has been reporting the rise to fame of glamorous Melbourne socialite Corey Worthington Delaney. I’ve written two essays already [1, 2], and this third one probably won’t be the last. My friends at Crikey published The Corey Timeline yesterday (republished by Peter Black too, if the Crikey original is behind their paywall).

Now, under Victorian law, as in many other democracies, the media cannot identify minors charged with criminal offences. Nor can they identify who’s brought before the children’s court. Fair enough. Once upon a time we all agreed that youthful indiscretions shouldn’t mar our reputation for life.

So now we have the ludicrous situation where National Nine News and The Age and everyone else is talking about “a 16-year-old boy” as if we haven’t noticed a flood of media reports about a specific, named 16yo who — in an amazing coincidence — held a wild party on the weekend where the police were called, including a helicopter and the dog squad.

Happens all the time. Could well be someone else.

Continue reading “Arrest of “teen party host” highlights stupidity of law”