2009 Unlocking IP conference

Yesterday I came back from a 3-day stay in Sydney. I was up there for the 2009 Unlocking IP conference, the third in a set of three, held at the Cyberspace Law and Policy Centre at UNSW. I remember coming across the programme of the 2006 conference at some point and thinking how interesting it looked, so it was wonderful not just to attend but also to present at this year’s! (NB: Kylie Pappalardo has also posted some notes about this conference on her blog.)

Liam and I co-presented Wikimedia in copyright/copyright in Wikimedia, which is something of a grab-bag of topics that we thought might be of interest to legal academics and practitioners. I humbly submit that our experiences of “copyright in practice” and adjudication in the court of XfD-style “consensus” may be of interest to those mainly focused on the theory of how it all works. The feedback we received was very positive and I feel encouraged to expand one of my topics into a psuedo-academic essay.

Video, 25 min, licensed CC-BY-SA

Some highlights:

Graham Greenleaf, a co-director of AustLII, talked in the opening sessions on National and International Dimensions of the Public Domain. He raised the idea of creating a “peak body” to represent the public domain/public rights in copyright, perhaps by expanding the Australian Digital Alliance or by creating a new body. It seems a fitting conclusion to the Unlocking IP project — launching ideas for the next phase.

Delia Browne of MCEETYA (a government education body) gave two talks, of which I saw the first: The Open Education Revolution: Sharing Nicely, which was a comprehensive overview of how the movement for open education resources (OERs) has evolved around the world and particularly in Australia.

Anne Fitzgerald also gave multiple talks, the first being Re-use of Government Works. She talked about the notion of OA to PSI (open access to public sector information, i.e. government works) and how it has developed significantly in the last five years, and even more so in the last 12 months. Australia is a member of the OECD, which has made statements of support for OA to PSI (e.g. June 2008’s Seoul Declaration, in which members promised to create policies that “[m]ake public sector information and content, including scientific data, and works of cultural heritage more widely accessible in digital format.” But sadly unlike the EU, OECD promises are not binding.

The Cutler report on the national innovation review released in September 2008 made moderately supportive noises towards this and similar concepts. The DBCDE Future Directions for the Digital Economy consultation (report expected mid-2009) asked questions that are best addressed by a National Information Policy; indeed, this was Recommendation 7.7 in the Cutler report:

Australia should establish a National Information Strategy to optimise the flow of information in the Australian economy. The fundamental aim of a National Information Strategy should be to:

(My emphasis.) Well, we will see what DBCDE’s report says. There are a couple of good signs in recent times. One is the launch last week of the Government Information Licensing Framework website, which is more targeted at other government departments than the general public. A licensing framework is something that you might use to help you set up all your department’s information to be published under a permissive license by default. GILF was developed in Queensland and is, as their website proudly states, “leading the world in establishing a new approach to public sector information licensing.” Another is the Queensland government’s draft Right to Information Bill, which would complement the Freedom of Information Act. Where FoI is “pull” (you have to request the information to get it), RtI will apparently be “push”. It is not hard to remember criticisms made about FOI over the years, so if a “RtI” approach removes the ability of ministers to bin reports that make them look bad, that will be welcome news for all.

On the second day I enjoyed Roger Clarke on Open Access to Journal Content as a Case Study in Unlocking IP, a kind of “how far have we come?” retrospective. The paper has a lot of very interesting detail and numbers (they haven’t yet been published, but they should be available from the Unlocking IP website). It concludes that although progress has been made in creating the “appropriate legal context”,

…the exploitation of the opportunity has lagged, because of impediments to adoption, especially the lack of any positive incentive to self-deposit, and downright apathy. The outcomes to date are disappointing for proponents of OA and Unlocking IP. Only a small proportion of the literature is readily available, academics continue to be primarily dependent on the formal versions, academics continue to be uninformed and apathetic about self-deposit, and libraries continue to pay inflated prices to enable academics to gain access to the papers that they collectively wrote and that they collectively quality-assured. There are limited signs of the adoption process speeding up sufficiently to deliver significant results. OA and Unlocking IP in the area of journal articles are at serious risk of being still-born.

Hm… what to do? I thought from what I learned at Arthur Sale’s open access presentation at LCA that institutional mandatory self-deposit policies were the answer (ie. the university requires that all academics put a copy of their journal articles into the university’s institutional repository). But according to Roger Clarke that would only increase the percentage of deposited articles to 30-50%. Perhaps the other 50% is the existing, unarchived works? Can academics somehow get extra cred for depositing their back archive?

In the same session, James Dalziel spoke about Successes and Challenges for open IP business models. He went through a detailed “hypothetical” comparison between a “traditional IP” software company and an “open IP” one (ie open source). His conclusion was something like: although open IP businesses can make money, it’s an order of magnitude below the potential of traditional IP companies. Therefore, traditional IP companies cannot adapt to an open IP approach, and all that is left is WAR!

I was one of the commentators on this session and I responded that since our (FLOSS) legal foundation is valid, all we can be attacked with is FUD (negative marketing), and even that doesn’t work forever. And calling it “war” is a strange thing, since it is a one-sided war, as we aren’t aiming to topple traditional IP companies — that will just be a completely unintentional side-effect.

The conference ended with the launch of the Public Rights Licenses Database, which aims to collect all the licenses that grant general users some rights — open source and open content licenses, from the Free Software Foundation to Creative Commons, and every other two-bit license in between. :) The earliest one dates to 1979! It also indexes licenses by country — I was surprised to learn of several Australia-specific licenses I had not heard of before. Equally, if you know of any licenses that should be there but are not, email them and let them know! (feedback at worldlii.org)

(I notice that the WTFPL is not listed, but, uh…maybe there’s a reason for that.)

In summary, Unlocking IP was a fascinating crash course in where Australian copyright, open access and other ‘open’ movements might be going. Thank you to the Cyberspace Law Centre for hosting this event and provoking these conversations.

20 April, 2009 • , , ,



Hi Brianna,

Great post and thanks for the link.

Was great to meet you (albeit briefly) at the Unlocking IP Conference. I really enjoyed your presentation. Will hopefully see you around again soon, probably at whatever related conference springs up next.

Kylie · 20. April 2009, 09:07


drupal.org,other mostly sites not open,when i reset modem then come new ip then open for time,after 2-3 hour it not open gain it big problem,kindly give solution

suraj · 19. May 2009, 18:40

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