01 June 2007

Take-Down Notice

The University responds to an approach from an outside organisation to remove materials from a Divisional website that infringe their rights.

Last week a well-known international online auction site wrote to the University claiming a University website was using its copyrighted materials inappropriately and fraudulently. It turned out that a student had, as a part of an assignment, created a parody of the site and hosted it on the server provided for the purpose of hosting student work.

We were informed of the notice on Thursday morning, 24 May 2007. After checking the existence of the site, TSU helpdesk immediately blocked access to the site from the Internet, and also removed the student’s access to the materials. Their lecturer was informed of the removal, and contacted the student to explain the situation. ICT Services pointed out that the student had breached the University’s Network Access Policy by using copyright material without authority and by misrepresenting the auction site.

Section 4.1 of the Network Access Policy states that:

4.1 Conditions of Use

The Internet service is provided for staff and students in undertaking their duties and studies related to the operations and mission of the University. Staff and students need to remember that use of the University's Internet and Intranet facilities and services is a privilege and not a right. They should be aware also that use of the Internet by the University is governed by a number of laws including copyright, defamation, misrepresentation, Fair Trading legislation and the Trade Practices Act, Telecommunications Regulations, Privacy Act, various criminal laws regarding fraud and obscenity, as well as a number of private codes regarding "netiquette" and the AVCC Policy on Allowed Access to the Internet. The University will take appropriate action upon becoming aware of any illegal use of the University's services and facilities.

The lecturer concerned replied that the student’s site was a purely innocent redesign of a page from the organisation, and undertook to explain to the student the importance of not breaching trademark or copyright in their work. It was quite a surprise that the notice appeared within days of the student’s site going live, an indication of the rigour with which the auction site polices its rights. Access to the student’s workspace was restored, minus the material that was the source of the complaint.

While the severity of the breach was low, it raises the issue for us of providing students (and staff) with access to the infrastructure that allows them easily to publish materials online. Heads of Schools should ensure staff and through them students understand the University’s Network Access Policy and abide by it. Through the ceportfolio service, all students enrolled in units in the Division have access to the same facility that allowed this breach to occur.

The incident also highlights the processes that are in place for rights owners to protect their property: in this case, the organization concerned identified the breach, and wrote to the University with a statement of their concerns. The University considered the concerns through established channels, and acted immediately to satisfy the complaint.