15 July 2008

Is the NSW Labor Government Retarded?

Three judges of the Federal Court of Australia have held that recent regulations intended to be used against NSW citizens by Morris Iemma's government were ultra vires, and therefore invalid. In Evans v State of New South Wales [2008] FCAFC 130 (15 July 2008) (http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/FCAFC/2008/130.html) the Court ordered that:

1. It be hereby declared that Clause 7(1)(b) of the World Youth Day Regulation 2008 is invalid, as beyond the regulation making power conferred by s 58 of the World Youth Day Act 2006 (NSW), to the extent that it purports to empower an authorised person to direct a person within a World Youth Day declared area to cease engaging in conduct that causes annoyance to participants in a World Youth Day event.

2. The application be otherwise dismissed.

Now, I've never drafted a regulation (although I wrote the first draft of a Supreme Court Practice Note), but you'd think either Parliamentary Counsel wrote this under duress, or just wasn't thinking.

Of course, this is just another episode in the story of the NSW Labor government giving the Police whatever they want, and removing the rights of NSW citizens. Gee, and all this in a month when five NSW police officers have been charged with assault...

14 July 2008

Cyberspace August 2008

Hilarity ensued

I spend a lot of time trying to make agreements logical, readable and concise. I suspect you do the same. However, some companies take a different approach... I recently purchased a subscription to Microsoft Technet (http://technet.microsoft.com) for AUD$307. If you are an IT tinkerer this is a good thing to do, as it provides you with access to almost every operating system, server and most business applications by Microsoft. The operating systems can be installed and activated up to 10 times, so it's not a bad investment every few years.

I installed Vista Ultimate which includes Windows Media Center (WMC). WMC is designed to display video, photos and music details on your TV. During set-up of my digital TV receiver (Compro U100 - AUD$75) in WMC I selected "Australia" as my region for local television guide services. It then displayed "downloading the most up-to-date TV setup options for your region." Next, I was asked to read 68 screens of licence information for the TV Program Guide, and was told I should print it out. Unfortunately WMC has no print function at all, so it is physically impossible to do what is required by the licence. Apparently the licence is available on the web, but that means you must write down the URL, quit WMC so you can access a web browser, and then start over (or go to another PC). There is also no guarantee that what is on the web is the same text as that you agree to in WMC.

It's obvious that most people are just going to click through without reading anything. I wonder if the licence would be set aside by the Court due to the unwieldy nature of the process? It also said (in all capitals -the equivalent of shouting) "ALL OF THE TERMS OF THIS AGREEMENT ARE VERY IMPORTANT, SO YOU MUST READ AND AGREE TO THIS ENTIRE AGREEMENT." Unfortunately, this nugget of wisdom was on screen 5 of 68, so I remain the sole person on Earth who has seen it. "If you accept these terms and conditions we recommend that you print a copy for your records" (see above) and "Microsoft may prove your agreement of consent to the terms and conditions of this Agreement in any manner..." Oh really?

On screen 11 of 68 it told us where we might find the agreement (as amended, not as agreed during this procedure) on the Internet. So, we get out a pen and paper, write down the URL, go to another PC and type in the link to find out what was going on. I kept reading, AND THERE WERE LOTS OF CAPITAL LETTERS RANDOMLY distributed throughout THE AGREEMENT. On 60 of 68 it stated "The parties... confirm that this Agreement... has been and shall be drawn up in the English language only." On 61 of 68 it suddenly launches into one sentence which appears to be French. Hmm...

I eventually decided I could pretend I agreed with all this and clicked "I agree". I was then asked for my postal code (I had previously indicated I was in Australia), which I entered, and clicked "Next" and was told "TV Program Guide listings are not available for your country or region." Umm... they could have asked me that before spending time on the licence, and then aborted the whole procedure... Not only do we have a ridiculous agreement, we also have a ridiculous process that should never have been unleashed on the public.

Oh, and the privacy statement was a comparatively concise 38 screens. It also provided an address on the last screen to give privacy feedback, although you couldn't click on it - you had to write it down and wander off to another computer.

Cyberspace July 2008


The Lawyer (http://www.thelawyer.com) recently reported "Linklaters is set to launch a series of virtual offices based in London as it axes its real offices in Bratislava, Bucharest, Budapest and Prague. The firm will install ­country desks in London for Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Turkey and Saudi Arabia." I assume that one has to speak in the relevant language when hovering around a country desk, but it does raise a few thoughts... What are the local admission requirements? Do they have an empty serviced office in each country with a table, chair, monitor, web-cam and a microphone for virtual meetings with clients? Or perhaps it's cheaper to fly there on a regular basis rather than maintain a regular office? It certainly solves some expatriate business migration problems. I wonder how that could work in the wide open spaces of Australia? A number of firms have occasionally attended offices in smaller centres, and I doubt that it would be cost efficient to do anything except jump in the car once a fortnight. But what if you could build a virtual office in Collarenabri (http://www.nnsw.com.au/collarenebri/tourism.html)? Your clients could attend an office, opening the door via a one-time keypad PIN that you had given them over the phone. Once inside there would be a room with a table, chairs, 32" screen, web cam and microphone, a document scanner, printer and a computer screen that you can control and share with the clients. After discussing a contract which was viewed on the computer screen, you could print out the document you just collaboratively amended, ask your clients to sign it and drop it into the feeder on the scanner. A few minutes later you have a high-resolution image of the document in your office, your client has a copy they can keep (or post if necessary), and everybody's happy. All you need now is a credit-card reader for them to swipe so they can open the door to exit.


The Council of Europe's Convention on Cybercrime (http://conventions.coe.int/Treaty/EN/Treaties/Html/185.htm) isn't something you're likely to have read much about, although it was recently reported that the Federal Government is considering becoming a signatory to it. The Convention requires member countries to pass legislation dealing with specified issues, such as making certain activities criminal offences, such as copyright infringement, access to computer systems without permission and creating software cracks. It also requires the enactment of enabling powers, such as preservation of evidence and the tracking of data. The implications of Articles 16 and 17 are huge, as it will require ISPs to log and maintain a great deal of information about their clients. It also requires the expeditious disclosure to an authority of data enable the identification of ISPs involved in transmission of data. Like all wide-ranging laws these could be used for great good, and could be manifiestly misused as well. I wouldn't like to see them enacted in places where political dissidents are arrested and imprisoned. Fortunately we don't currently live in a place like that, but I deeply trust that the Federal Government will engage in wide consultation before becoming a signatory to the Convention.

It's mine

A USA District Court upheld the right of a man to sell software that he had purchased. Sounds self-evident, doesn't it? Autodesk, the manufacturer of AutoCAD, tried to stop him selling the software on the basis that he didn't own his copy of the software - it was merely licensed to him. The Court held that he owned his copies of the software and was entitled to sell them on eBay, even though the original licence forbade the sale or transfer of the licence. Imagine buying a car, and then when you wanted to buy a new one you had to give the old one back!