Media, Communications and Public Speech: The 2010 Conference of the CMCL

By Amanda Scardamaglia

Melbourne Law School’s Centre for Media and Communications Law hosted its annual conference, Media, Communications and Publish Speech on the 25-26 November, 2010. The conference was well attended by over 100 local and international participants from various backgrounds including academics, PhD students, researchers and those working in industry, including media lawyers and publishers. Please click here for conference notes.

The conference had three keynote speakers. The first keynote speaker was Professor Peter Yu, Kern Family Chair in Intellectual Property Law at Drake University Law School and founding director of the Intellectual Property Law Center at Drake University Law School. Yu is also a Wenlan Scholar Chair Professor at Zhongnan University of Economics and Law in Wuhan, China.

The second keynote speaker was Associate Professor Lisa Austin from the University of Toronto Law School.  Researching and teaching in the area of property, privacy and legal theory, Austin’s publications include the co-edited Technology, Privacy and Justice (2007) and Information Sharing and the “Reasonable” Ambiguities of s 8 of the Charter (2007). Austin has also co-authored the report Model Policy for Access to Court Records in Canada (2005), in collaboration with Judges Technology Advisory Committee for the Canadian Judicial Council.

The third keynote speaker was Professor Eva Hemmungs Wirtén, Professor in Library and Information Science and also an Associate Professor (Docent) in Comparative Literature at Uppsala University, Sweden. Her area of research is international copyright and the history of the public domain, writing extensively on the area, including her books, No Trespassing: Authorship, Intellectual Property Rights and the Boundaries of Globalization (2004) and Terms of Use: Negotiating the Jungle of the Intellectual Commons (2008).

The conference was opened by Professor Peter Yu, who gave an entertaining and fascinating presentation on Internet Freedom and Intellectual Property Rights. Yu’s paper highlighted how although Internet freedom and intellectual property rights are complementary in nature, they can also conflict with each other.

Yu positioned this discussion in light of countries that heavily restrict information, where there is a greater potential for conflict between Internet freedom and intellectual property rights. In describing the difference between high content and low content cultures, Yu explained that as a consequence of this conflict, high controlled societies have to communicate through parody, satire, euphemisms, literary allusions, vague, coded phrases and graphics, providing some entertaining visual examples of this in China.

Yu concluded by foreshadowing some ways to resolve the tension between Internet freedom and intellectual property in information regressive societies including by providing limitations and exceptions such as fair use, the right to parody, compulsory licenses and the use of open content/creative commons.

Lisa Austin closed the first day of the conference, with her engaging paper on Privacy: Rights, Risks and the Rule of Law.

The second day of the conference was led by Professor Eva Hemmings Wirtén who gave a keynote paper titled Scandal, Slander, and Science: Duelling over Marie Curie, 1911. Wirtén, who is currently writing a biography of intellectual property through Marie Curie’s career entitled The Intellectual Properties of Marie Curie (due for publication in 2013), presented an outline of what is to be the second chapter of her book. She focussed on the year 1911, which Wirtén called Marie Curie’s annus horribilus.

Wirtén gave a compelling and insightful account of the scandal of the Langevin affaire, and the five duels that ensued as a remedy to slander, even featuring some archival reel footage of those duels, much to the amusement of the audience.

Several panel sessions were conducted around these keynote papers, covering a wide range of topics, including politics and power; arts, texts and broadcasts; defamation reform; defamation and public debate; social comment, as well as a panel considering new commerce issues.

The second day’s panel sessions included discussions on freedom of information and expression; user generated content; government information, Internet; privacy, secrecy, publicity. There was also a panel dedicated to the issues surrounding the National Broadband Network and another on extreme speech.

This was one of the most successful conferences to date with new frontiers in media and Internet law well canvassed. Speakers from the EU and China also served to bring valuable insights into this dynamic area of law. Selected papers will be published by the Media and Arts Law Review.

Amanda Scardamaglia is a Teaching Fellow and PhD Candidate at the University of Melbourne Law School.

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