26 June 2007

Double standards

While many people find it impossible to have their kidnapped children returned from overseas, and non-custodial parents can't get access orders enforced, the USA has finally managed to get its hands on an Australian who had never been to the USA. Hew Griffiths (see Cyberspace May 2005 and United States of America v Griffiths [2004] FCA 879) is now in a cell in Virginia (http://tinyurl.com/38csfq) for alleged copyright crimes. As mentioned in the above Sydney Morning Herald article, His Honour Justice Peter Young is reported as thinking that this is not a good thing; he is concerned that Australian nationals are being handed over to foreign governments because of transgressions of commercial interests.

Coincidentally, it seems that English members of Griffiths' group who were located in Great Britain were tried in Great Britain. One assumes that our justice minister will obsequiously request the transfer of Griffiths to Guantanamo Bay in the near future. I am also mildly amused that the solicitor for the Applicant (i.e. the USA) in the Federal Court proceedings was the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions. I hope the USA received a bill ...

It is alleged that the group's activities involved a loss of $50 million in sales. While it's been a year or two since I studied damages and remedies, one has to look closely at this figure. This is especially so in the light of the USA recording industry's habit of plucking figures for damages out of thin air. Now, even in Australia the sort of conduct alleged would attract additional damages, above the amount of actual or expertly estimated economic loss, so we're talking fairly rubbery figures. But my observations of the "warez" scene (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warez) suggest that a lot of the downloads from warez sites are by unsophisticated users, particularly children, who would never buy the software in question, and in fact probably try it once and delete it. Quantify that! - especially since this is similar to downloading legitimate trial versions of software and using it for, say, 30 days. Further, does a mere download cause a "loss" in the absence of evidence of installation or use? What if the download doesn't complete correctly?

Anyway, rant over, but it's a pity we don't have more thinkers like Peter Young.


Some time ago I asked in this column if there was anyone interested in networking to discuss law and technology. My thanks to those who responded, but the logistics and numbers meant that we couldn't go ahead. However, the absence of a forum for lawyers and IT professionals has continued to weigh on my mind, resulting in practicesupport.org (http://practicesupport.org/). This is a brand new site aimed at anyone involved in IT and the law, whether they be lawyers or IT professionals in management or on the help desk. Over the next 12 months I trust it will evolve into a community where questions can be answered, ideas exchanged, and cooperation encouraged in non-contentious areas. If you're reading this then you are probably a good candidate to register on the site and get involved! Please also send the link to your IT staff since they're fairly unlikely to be reading this in the first place!

The main area of the site is the Forums, where you can post questions, answers and ideas regarding topics of your choice. A fair number of topics have already been set up, but feel free to suggest more. Don't forget, you can subscribe to topics so that you receive an email whenever new information is posted. While I don't want to see the site turn into nothing but self-promotion, it would be good to see legal software vendors involved as well.

Initially the site is going to have a bit of an empty air to it, but as we all contribute we may see it turn into an important resource on the Internet.

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