Tech law update 21 June 2010

Copyright in compilations

The Independent has an update on YPG’s legal battles to uphold the copyright in its Yellow Pages listings (see my post earlier this year). The outcome of the latest Court proceedings – expected very soon – could be of interest to all database or “compilation” rightsholders.

One such group may be New Zealand television networks seeking to restrict use of their TV listings by third parties. In Australia, this was the subject of the landmark IceTV case – which confirmed there is no copyright in basic, factual TV listings. Recently, Sky Television’s lawyers sent out cease-and-desist letters to people who had written programs allowing its listings to be “screen-scraped”, on the flimsy grounds that such actions breached its copyright in those listings (assuming such copyright even exists).

Google Street View WiFi drama

Errata Security has a good technical explanation of Google’s WiFi sniffing controversy, which is the subject of a preliminary criminal investigation in New Zealand (see my post here). From the post:

Although some people are suspicious of their explanation, Google is almost certainly telling the truth when it claims it was an accident. The technology for WiFi scanning means it’s easy to inadvertently capture too much information, and be unaware of it… It’s really easy to protect your data: simply turn on WPA. This completely stops Google (or anybody else) from spying on your private data (assuming you haven’t done something stupid like chosen an easily guessed password, or chosen WEP instead of WPA). If you don’t encrypt your traffic, then by implication, you don’t care if people eavesdrop on it.

Meanwhile, details are emerging that the captured data included passwords and emails. This is hardly surprising given that a huge amount of computer activity involves these two things, and it doesn’t change the “case” against Google. As I wrote earlier, intention is a key issue, as is whether the captured data is “reconstructed into a communication that indicates confidentiality” and made use of.

Luke Appleby gave his take on the Google WiFi drama here. While my post looked at the criminal acts, Luke rightly points out that Google could also have run foul of s 133A of the Radiocommunications Act 1989. That is certainly worth a look by the Privacy Commissioner (not the police; and there is still a need for intention which has yet to be established), although substantive privacy issues should be the focus of any investigation, if warranted – a case which has yet to be made.

Copyright Amendment Bill submissions

Internet NZ has published its submission on the Copyright Amendment Bill. It includes a great detailed analysis by lawyer Rick Shera. While I have different views on some aspects, I support a good many parts of the submission. Paragraphs 86 and 87 of Rick’s analysis in particular raise key questions that need to be addressed by the Committee.

The submission also emphasises the range of business and government activities reliant on internet access. This is a point I submitted on earlier, and it will be interesting to see if other business sectors pick up on this. For example, do banks and online shops really want their customers to be disconnected for transgressions against another industry group? I’m sure the recording industry would not want their online customers disconnected because one of their kids is caught shoplifting at the local dairy.

Aussie net filter to be back-burnered

The Australian government’s daft plan to impose mandatory internet filtering, which only recently was being pushed ahead, is now likely to be shelved until after the election.