Protecting and promoting human rights in a digital age: the responsibilities of platforms

Associate Professor Nicolas Suzor Queensland University of Technology
29 January | Melbourne Law School

Social media platforms, search engines, content hosts, and telecommunications providers play a major role in governing our digital lives. Governments around the world are increasingly seeking to influence how these digital intermediaries monitor and censor internet communications, and platforms now face substantial pressure from users, civil society, and industry groups to do more on specific issues like terrorism, hatred, image-based abuse, and ‘fake news.’ This presentation examined the opportunities and challenges for the future of internet regulation. How can human rights be protected in the digital age? What array of legal obligations and self-regulatory tools might be able to promote innovation and investment in digital technologies while responding to emerging needs to protect citizens from harm online? How can domestic regulation work in a transnational media environment?
Answering these questions are particularly difficult given the lack of good information about how private intermediaries currently govern their networks. Scholars face serious difficulties in gaining access to examine the practices of content moderation within commercial platforms. Over the last few years, we have seen a number of excellent detailed qualitative analyses of governance practices of particular platforms, but much remains shrouded in secrecy. It is difficult, in this context, for scholars researching the broader social implications of commercial content moderation practices to access the information they need to study changes over time and across platforms. This presentation presented an emerging research agenda and considered the opportunities for methodological innovation and cross-disciplinary collaboration to help progress future research.

Associate Professor Nicolas Suzor researches the regulation of networked society. He is an ARC DECRA Research Fellow in the Law School at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia, and a Chief Investigator of QUT’s Digital Media Research Centre. His research examines the governance of the internet and social networks, the peer economy, digital copyright, and knowledge commons.

Watch this (domain) space: developments in the .au policy review panel, direct registrations and domain name disputes and arbitrations

A Victorian Twilight Seminar supported by IPSANZ and IPRIA
7 March | Melbourne Law School

Panel Speakers:
John Swinson King & Wood Mallesons
The Honourable Neil Brown QC Victorian Bar
Professor Andrew Christie The University of Melbourne
Erhan Karabardak Cooper Mills

This presentation was an interactive discussion seminar.  All presenters shared their knowledge and views on topics with members, and covered topics of discussion such as policy review panel, direct registrations, the domain name after market, the auDRP and trends and current issues in domain name arbitration.

John Swinson Partner, King & Wood MallesonsJohn Swinson is a partner of King & Wood Mallesons, and is the Chair of the auDA 2017 Policy Review Panel.  John is also a panelist for WIPO under the UDRP and auDRP, and has decided over 300 domain name ownership disputes.

The Hon Neil Brown QC Victorian Bar Queens Counsel in Australia, The Hon Neil Brown QC has had a long and distinguished career in government and the law since 1964. Previously a Minister in the Federal Government in Australia in charge of portfolios in Attorney-General’s, Communications and Employment and Youth Affairs. He has appeared in all Australian jurisdictions with experience in commercial, intellectual property, town planning and taxation matters. He is an Adjunct Professor of Law at Murdoch University in Western Australia. A qualified arbitrator and mediator, The Hon Neil Brown QC practices in international and domestic matters in the commercial, communication, intellectual property and governmental fields. He is a leading arbitrator and adviser on internet domain name disputes.

Professor Andrew Christie The University of Melbourne. Andrew Christie was appointed the foundation Chair of Intellectual Property at the Melbourne Law School in 2002.   He is a member of the panel of neutrals with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center, Resolution Institute, and the Asian Domain Name Dispute Resolution Centre. He has served as a panelist in approximately 200 domain name disputes, and has authored some of the most cited decisions.

Erhan Karabardak Director, Cooper Mills. Cooper Mills’ Erhan Karabardak is a technology lawyer and Trade Marks Attorney. Erhan is also active in the domain name industry and represents domain name registrars and resellers, and has advised some of the world’s largest domain name registrars. Erhan is recognised as an expert in domain name law and has run some of the leading cases in the area. Erhan is also a director and board member of the .au Domain Administration (auDA), Australia's domain name regulator, and is the former Chair. He is also a Director and board member of the Asia Pacific Top Level Domain Association (APTLD), which represents ccTLD operators from around the broader Asia Pacific region.

Patents and Traditional Knowledge: A Case Study of the Impact of Patent Laws on the Production and Distribution of Miao Traditional Medicines in Guizhou’s Pharmaceutical Industry

Ben Hopper | PhD Confirmation Seminar 
8 March | Melbourne Law School

How do “modern” intellectual property regimes interact with “traditional” knowledge goods like traditional medicines?  Does the introduction of an IP regime into a region rich in TK result only in exploitation (e.g., the familiar trope of the (Western) pharmaceutical company patenting “modern” medicines derived from plants used in “traditional” medicines), or does it also play a more complex role connected to, e.g., the innovation, diffusion and/or efficiency of production and distribution of TK goods?

This PhD project will lend insight into these questions through a study of patent (and related) laws and traditional medicines.  Through a case study, it will explicate the impact of patent laws on the production and distribution of traditional medicines of the Miao people in Guizhou, southwestern China.  Here, the “ethnomedicine” pharmaceutical industry is expanding apace—patenting, packaging and selling Miao traditional medicines.

This case study was used as a vehicle to test and develop the thesis that patent laws’ impact on the production and distribution of TK goods is significantly mediated by market size and competition, social practices and enforcement practices.

Regulation by Blockchain: The Emerging Battle for Supremacy between the Code of Law and Code as Law

A seminar supported by the Centre for Corporate Law and Securities Regulation, Centre for Media and Communications Law and the Transactional Law Group at Melbourne Law School

Professor Karen Yeung University of Birmingham
13 April | Melbourne Law School

Many advocates of distributed ledger technologies (including blockchain technologies) claim that these technologies provide the foundations for an organisational form that will enable individuals to transact with each other free from the travails of conventional law, thus offering the promise of grassroots democratic governance without the need for third party intermediaries. But does the assumption that blockchain systems will operate beyond the reach of conventional law withstand critical scrutiny? The aim of this seminar is to subject the intersection and interactions between conventional law promulgated and enforced by national legal systems (ie the ‘code of law’) and the internal rules of blockchain systems which take the form of executable software code and cryptographic algorithms via distributing computing networks (‘code as law’) to critical examination to identify whether, and to what extent, ‘regulation by blockchain’ will successfully avoid governance by conventional law.

Professor Karen Yeung is Interdisciplinary Professorial Fellow in Law, Ethics and Informatics at the University of Birmingham in the School of Law and the School of Computer Science. As a Fellow of the Institute of Global Innovation at The University of Birmingham, she leads a major interdisciplinary project involving over 50 researchers from a range of disciplines under the theme of ‘Responsible Artificial Intelligence’. She has been a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at Melbourne Law School since 2016.
Her research expertise lies in the regulation and governance of, and through, emerging technologies, with her more recent and on-going work focusing on the legal, ethical, social and democratic implications of a suite of technologies associated with automation and the ‘computational turn’, including big data analytics, artificial intelligence (including various forms of machine learning), distributed ledgers (including blockchain) and robotics. Her work has been at the forefront of nurturing ‘law, regulation and technology’ as a sub-field of legal and interdisciplinary scholarship, reflected in the publication of The Oxford Handbook of Law, Regulation and Technology (co-edited with Roger Brownsword and Eloise Scotford) in 2017.