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Censorship Government Politics

Copyright Law Used to Shut Down Site 206

Posted by Hemos
from the bad-usage dept.
driptray writes "The Sydney Morning Herald reports that an Australian mining industry group has used copyright laws to close a website that parodied a coal industry ad campaign. A group known as Rising Tide created the website using the slogan "Rising sea levels: brought to you by mining" in response to the mining industry's slogan of "Life: brought to you by mining". The mining industry claimed that the "content and layout" of the parody site infringed copyright, but when Rising Tide removed the copyrighted photos and changed the layout, the mining industry still lodged a complaint. Is this a misuse of copyright law in order to stifle dissent?"
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Copyright Law Used to Shut Down Site

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  • well.. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mastershake_phd (1050150) on Monday March 05, 2007 @12:23PM (#18238250) Homepage
    Well at least parody is still legal in the US. Is anyone else surprised how repressive Australia and the UK can be?
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by hnile_jablko (862946)
      There are heaps of shows in Oz that parody everything from sport, to business and news. I find it odd that this has happened. Especially considering the parody website does not appear to be making money from it. Being an american/australian, I find Australia is a lot less repressive than the US, while the UK has its problems, not sure I would say that it is more repressive etc. I for one welcome our new Aussie copyright litigator overlords.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Yes, in the US, nobody would complain if someone was imitating their slogan, as US laws are fair and balanced.

      </straight face>
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Homr Zodyssey (905161)

        fair and balanced.

        Hah! Good one!

        In case it went over anyone's head, I think he was punning on this [washingtonpost.com]

    • Re:well.. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by digitig (1056110) on Monday March 05, 2007 @01:36PM (#18239386)
      It may well be legal in Australia, too; this looks like an ISP that rolls over and dies whenever a complaint is lodged. Nowhere does it say that the Minerals Council demonstrated a copyright infringement, it just says that they complained and the host took the site down. It hasn't gone to court, and it looks to me as if the Minerals Council is just hoping that Rising Tide won't have the resources to mount an effective legal challenge. I understand that such things happen in the USA, too.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by caitsith01 (606117)
        Correct, from what I can see. IAAL, and what's more IAAAL (I am an Australian lawyer).

        It's a shame that they don't fight this. The courts in Australia are generally reasonably sympathetic to the victims of unmeritorious litigation, and wouldn't hesitate to give summary judgment and a significant costs order if it came down to it. The mining industry's lawyers would be well aware of this and would probably settle the thing out of court.

        Meanwhile, the whole 'presumption of infringement' attitude encouraged
      • Re:well.. (Score:5, Informative)

        by axxs (241276) on Monday March 05, 2007 @08:23PM (#18244686) Homepage
        Actually, your very wrong.

        We didn't roll over and die on this, we tried arguing it, but the lawyers said 'It doesn't matter if we are wrong or right, you have to abide by this law :

        http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/cth/consol_reg/ cr1969242/sch10.html [austlii.edu.au]

        Which REQUIRES, that we pull the site, IRRESPECTIVE of ANYTHING. We just have to get a notice as per the regulations. I asked the solicitor exactly what was copyright, and she said ALL OF IT. as per the notice to us. This is just plain false. I pointed out the source code was different, she then pulled the statement about the above law.

        Now, I don't know if you know, but the Mining companies in just NSW are a 21 billion dollar business. That's a lot of money to have hanging over a collective that does web-hosting voluntarily. These lawyers were ready to make sure we paid for not fullfilling our legal requirements. We tried fighting this, and came up against a money wall. a 21 billion dollar money wall.

        And for those that think this can't happen in the US, your very wrong. We have the Australian-US Free Trade Agreement to thank for section 20j (the takedown clause):
        http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/cth/num_reg/car 200412004n405376/sch1.html [austlii.edu.au]

        notice this:

        COPYRIGHT AMENDMENT REGULATIONS 2004 (No. 1) 2004 No. 405 - REG 2
        Commencement

        These Regulations commence on the commencement of item 191 of Schedule 9
        to the US Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act 2004 .
        http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/cth/num_reg/car 200412004n405376/s2.html [austlii.edu.au]
        • by digitig (1056110)
          Yes, if you follow the thread you'll find that I've already acknowledged that you had no choice and aplogised for being unduly hard on you!
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by axxs (241276)
        Read my post here : http://yro.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=225234&cid =18244686 [slashdot.org]

        We got a very legal notice I assure you, as per the copyright act schedule.

        We aren't trying to 'toe the line', in fact, we are a very progressive collective of activist geeks.

        And we have also received similar with a government agency using the DMCA to do the same with another site, in the past 2 weeks, where the server farm host was threatened with the DMCA, and thus us with them threatening to take down the server if it was
      • by mpe (36238)
        It may well be legal in Australia, too; this looks like an ISP that rolls over and dies whenever a complaint is lodged.

        A situation hardly unique to Australia. This also happens in North America and Europe.

        Nowhere does it say that the Minerals Council demonstrated a copyright infringement, it just says that they complained and the host took the site down. It hasn't gone to court

        That's part of the problem. Someone making a complaint dosn't need to "go to court" and prove their case, even their identity,
        • by digitig (1056110)

          Since "Rising Tide" don't have a time machine all they could be would be to sue "Minerals Council" for damages.
          Well, I was thinking that they could get their parody back online. But I suppose that, given the time legal procedings can take, the parody would no longer be timely.
    • by Haeleth (414428)

      Well at least parody is still legal in the US. Is anyone else surprised how repressive Australia and the UK can be?

      Which country was it that came up with the idea of "free speech zones"?
      Which country invented the concept of legal enforcement of DRM?
      Which country came up with the idea of patenting software, business methods, and living creatures?
      Which country pioneered suing people for ludicrously inflated damages on the merest suspicion of their kids possibly having downloaded an MP3 once?

      You might want to

    • by syousef (465911)
      In Australia the laws are usually draconian and the enforcement of those laws is usually lax unless there's a political agenda. This of course opens the draconian laws up to incredible misuse. It's quite sickening actually.
    • Is anyone else surprised how repressive Australia and the UK can be?

      Not really. But remember that the US (specifically then chairman of pharmaceutical drugs company Pfizer, Edmund Pratt) has worked very hard for many years to export tougher IP laws to other countries. I recommend the book 'Information Feudalism' by professors Peter Drahos and John Braithwaite: http://www.grain.org/seedling/?id=265 [grain.org] A bit more on Pfizer's work in this area can be found here: http://www.oxfam.org.uk/what_we_do/issues/health/c b_pfizer.htm [oxfam.org.uk]

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Something like this would probably be okay in the United States as a fair use parody.
  • From Wikipedia: (Score:5, Informative)

    by popo (107611) on Monday March 05, 2007 @12:24PM (#18238264) Homepage

    Parody: Copyright Issues
    ______________________________________________

    Although a parody can be considered a derivative work under United States Copyright Law, it can be protected under the fair use doctrine, which is codified in 17 USC 107. The Supreme Court of the United States stated that parody "is the use of some elements of a prior author's composition to create a new one that, at least in part, comments on that author's works." That commentary function provides some justification for use of the older work. See Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc.

    Other notable US court decisions involving parody include Suntrust v. Houghton Mifflin (Affirming the right of Alice Randall to publish a parody of Gone with the Wind called The Wind Done Gone, which told the same story from the point of view of Scarlett O'Hara's slaves),

    ((Then again, that's in the US. Not sure about Australia))

  • IANAL, I mean if you could not use copyrighted material for parody, a lot of TV shows would be out of business. (SNL anyone)

    -Em
    • Parody is protected, so yea, this is pretty blatant abuse. The Supreme's have ruled on this over and over...Acuff-Rose [cornell.edu] is a good example (warning, legalese ahead).
  • by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <Satanicpuppy@g m a i l .com> on Monday March 05, 2007 @12:31PM (#18238370) Journal
    Parody is the get-out-of-jail-free card of copyright law, because in order for parody to be possible, you have to be able to copy the original work, at least to a point.

    There is a tremendous amount of precedent and even law directed against this sort of copyright abuse, and, in the states at least, I'd expect it to be laughed out of anything but the most local and parochial courtroom.

    Typical that it's big business pulling this crap...Energy company to boot. I hope they get slapped with all the legal fees, because that's clearly what this is about...Forcing the parody site to pay legal fees to win a case that they can easily win.
  • Stifle? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Aladrin (926209) on Monday March 05, 2007 @12:31PM (#18238380)
    "Is this a misuse of copyright law in order to stifle dissent?"

    If it is, it totally failed! I'd have -never- heard of this if they hadn't done this. Now it's got more publicity than the little website could have handled, had it been up. (Does this count as a pre-slashdotting? ie: Site goes down before it's on slashdot.)

    Before, should I happen to see something about this in passing, I'd have said 'Pfft. Activists.' and carried on. Now I -know- the mining industry wants this hushed. Suddenly, it seems a little more interesting and probable.
  • "Life: brought to you by mining"

    Are you kidding me?

    I have nothing further to say.

    TLF
    • by Minwee (522556) <dcr@neverwhen.org> on Monday March 05, 2007 @12:41PM (#18238574) Homepage
      Yeah, as everyone knows, Mining brings you Masonry and Bronze Working, which in turn gets you Metal Casting, Iron Working, Compass and Machinery. There's nothing about 'Life' in there at all.
      • Meh.

        I bet the agriculture industry agrees... without mining, there's no way we could support the billions of people on planet Earth.. Yah, agriculture definitely doesn't do more than mining does for that! /sarcasm

        Look, all I am saying is, that slogan is absurdly narrow-minded.

        Hence the parody from the guys who made the site.

        Oh and BTW, modders.. my OP actually wasn't Offtopic. It was about the VERY topic this story represents. But thanks for playing.

        TLF
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Fozzyuw (950608)

        Yeah, as everyone knows, Mining brings you Masonry and Bronze Working, which in turn gets you Metal Casting, Iron Working, Compass and Machinery. There's nothing about 'Life' in there at all.

        Translated for my /. brethren...

        Yeah, as everyone knows, Mining brings you Engineering and Blacksmithing , which in turn gets you Gnomish Engineering, Goblin Engineering, Armorsmith, and Weaponsmith, which in turn gets you Swordsmith, Axesmith, and Hammersmith. And to a lesser extent is used in Leatherworking and Jew

    • When I heard the phrase "Life: brought to you by mining" it reminded me of one of my favorite songs "Sixteen Tons".

      "You load sixteen tons, what do you get?
      Another day older and deeper in debt..."

      Sixteen Tons [rootsweb.com]

  • Takedown (Score:5, Informative)

    by Any Web Loco (555458) on Monday March 05, 2007 @12:36PM (#18238476) Homepage
    Yes and no. The site-host has to respond to the Takedown notice within 24 hours. They will always take the site down first and then restore it later if there's no issue. From the hoster's point of view that's the best course of action - they can't get legal advice on every single takedown request they get. But it does mean the process is open to abuse by copyright holders. This is a good example of that.

    The flipside to this is that, under Australian Copyright law, using copyrighted material for the purposees of satire is OK. It's great that this is getting so much attention. The satirists are within their rights and it makes the (enourmously powerful) mining lobby look like a bunch of wankers with no sense of humour. And in Australia it's almost sinful if you can't cope with having the piss taken out of you.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by rosscoe (1000032)
      Same here in the UK, people very rarely complain about parady or satire because they know that if they do it will be 10 times worse for them. In fact its such a national passtime here that celebs etc ask to go on the very shows that take the piss out of them.
    • by mpe (36238)
      The site-host has to respond to the Takedown notice within 24 hours. They will always take the site down first and then restore it later if there's no issue. From the hoster's point of view that's the best course of action - they can't get legal advice on every single takedown request they get. But it does mean the process is open to abuse by copyright holders.

      It may actually be simply "open to abuse". If the hoster will take the site down before they even attempt to find out if the complaint is valid how
  • by zestyping (928433) on Monday March 05, 2007 @12:37PM (#18238500) Homepage
    According to the Australian Copyright Council [copyright.org.au]:

    A person can make a "fair dealing" with copyright material for any of the following purposes:
    • research or study;
    • criticism or review;
    • parody or satire;
    • reporting news; or
    • professional advice by a lawyer, patent attorney or trade marks attorney.
    The above is quoted from their Information Sheet on Fair Dealing [copyright.org.au]. The third page of that document has more detail on "Fair dealing for parody or satire" and draws a distinction between parody and satire:

    A parody is an imitation of a work, and may include parts of the original. In some cases, a parody may not be effective unless parts of the original are included. It seems that the purpose of a true parody is to make some comment on the imitated work or on its creator.

    The purpose of satire, on the other hand, is to draw attention to characteristics or actions - such as vice or folly - by using certain forms of expression - such as irony, sarcasm and ridicule. It seems that both elements are required: the object to which attention is drawn (vice or folly etc) and the manner in which it is done (irony, ridicule etc). It is not clear, for example, that a work which uses irony or ridicule about something other than something like vice or folly would be satire.

    [...]

    It is not so clear that use of a copyright work for satiric purposes would be as likely to be "reasonable" in all the circumstances. This is because, unlike parody, the object of satire is generally not the copyright material itself or its creator(s). The copyright material used may enhance a work that has a satirical purpose, but is unlikely to be necessary for the for the satirical purpose.

  • You have to ask? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Tesral (630142) on Monday March 05, 2007 @12:41PM (#18238580) Homepage
    Yes, in a word. IMNAL and I don't know Australian law, but the art of parody manages to thrive there as well as in the US. This isn't even really a question as much as a statement.


    It is also typical of the new customer service model; "Your satisfaction guaranteed, or we'll sue you". Companies instead of answering the public or ignoring parody aggressively attack it. It's a step up from Mob tactics, but a short step.

    • by vertinox (846076)
      Yes, in a word. IMNAL and I don't know Australian law, but the art of parody manages to thrive there as well as in the US. This isn't even really a question as much as a statement.

      I can't find an online references, but I have a DVD that contains an interview with the lead singer of Snog [wikipedia.org] (a consumerist anti-corporation band) about how they were taken to court and had to pull one of their albums from the shelves in Australia because McDonald's sued them over the way their album cover resembled the fast food c
  • The mining industry claimed that the "content and layout" of the parody site infringed copyright, but when Rising Tide removed the copyrighted photos and changed the layout, the mining industry still lodged a complaint. Is this a misuse of copyright law in order to stifle dissent?"

    It must be an attempt to silence dissent, because there is no conceivable alternative reason for the mining industry to care. It's not like the parody site is selling natural gas or imported minerals or whatever in competition w

    • "It's a complete package. When a parody takes that package and makes a minor alteration in order to dilute or destroy the original message, it ruins the future returns of the consortium's investment. Isn't that (at least in principle) what copyright law exists to prevent?"

      I think you are thinking of trademark law, not copyright. From what little I know, international treaties on trademarks are made to protect them against similar use (one company vs another in a similar business) not to protect them from p
    • When a parody takes that package and makes a minor alteration in order to dilute or destroy the original message, it ruins the future returns of the consortium's investment. Isn't that (at least in principle) what copyright law exists to prevent?

      No, copyright law exists to prevent the design for being used on a website to advertise, say, Vegemite. Or, even to parody Vegemite. However, using the design for the specific purpose of making a comment about the original site is fair use.
    • It does not exist specifically to produce money for anyone, or to safeguard works against attack or misuse. The purpose of copyright is to provide the environment in which the creation of future works is more likely, as that is how it benefits the common good. Those protections normally mean that the creator is the only one who can make money off of the work, as the opportunity for monetary returns are normally held up as a positive way to spur new creation.

      Also, note that the coal industry didn't creat the
  • Satire... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Etherwalk (681268) on Monday March 05, 2007 @12:45PM (#18238642)
    It's called "satire." (And parody, of course.) I haven't liked it historically--although I do remember a fun article in a british pamphlet [gutenberg.org] from a while back about duelling. "Please, sir, show up at half-past ten in front of the convenience store so that we might stick swords in each other." Something like that... In any event, Colbert is the more recent example. The Colbert Report satirizes O'Reilly, and O'Reilly would certainly shut Colbert down if he could. Satire and Parody is one of the few parts of the constitution that has actually remained pretty powerful--that particular application of free speech laws. This is something that the U.S. does right.
  • by skywire (469351) * on Monday March 05, 2007 @12:48PM (#18238684)
    The discussion here has immediately moved into the area of parody fair use. A quick comparison of the sites in question reveals nothing that even approaches being a copy or derivative work. The text and artwork are original. Unless Australian law allows a phrase such as "brought to you by mining" to be copyrighted, this whole fair use tangent is beside the point.
    • by cfulmer (3166)
      (Note: as has been mentioned by others, this is a case out of Australia. Nevertheless, I'm only going to talk about US copyright principles, which I think would still apply.)

      I can't get to the sites at the moment, but note that one does not need to actually copy text or graphics to infringe. In general, you need some form of creative authorship. A creative layout is protected, even if what fills it in is completely different. Decisions about what types of things to put into that layout are also protecte
    • by mpe (36238)
      Unless Australian law allows a phrase such as "brought to you by mining" to be copyrighted, this whole fair use tangent is beside the point.

      Possibly it might be a trademark, but since the satirical site isn't selling anything that should be irrelevent.
  • Ahhghhhh! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cascadingstylesheet (140919) on Monday March 05, 2007 @12:52PM (#18238758)
    Stop tacking these 3rd grade essay questions on the end of each post!

    It's not like Slashdot had no discussion happening before you started doing that, you know :)
  • It all depends on if it helps you or hurts you..
  • ... is two words.
    • Do not believe Microsoft's lies! Though it may be "Shut Down..." in the Start menu, it's all a plot by Bill Gates to slowly bend your mind until you can no longer type or spell properly!

      A cursory reading of the internet should prove me right!
  • Lucky winner #4,372 in our on-going sweepstakes, "We sued somebody to hush them up, and now people on five continents are reading about it!!!"
  • "Is this a misuse of copyright law in order to stifle dissent?"
    Yes.
  • From copyright.org.au comes this document [copyright.org.au] (PDF, sorry) which mentions (in the context of the Australian Copyright Act, I assume):

    There is a new exception allowing fair dealing for parody or satire.

    There is a whole section titled "Fair dealing for parody or satire" with more information that is worth a read (if you're Australian, anyway). It's not a clear-cut answer, but there's certainly a case for parody being allowable under Australian copyright law.

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