Technology companies and protecting our rights

Professor Nicolas Suzor’s recent book, Lawless: The Secret Rules That Govern Our Digital Lives, examines the power that social media platforms, search engines, and other technology companies have over our lives and the need for new digital constitutions that protect our rights.

The book shows us how our social lives, our news, and our information environments are shaped by a complex web of legal, technical, and social forces.

Drawing on ten years of research, Nic’s book offers a vision of a vibrant, diverse, and flourishing internet that can protect our fundamental human rights. Lawless is a must-read for those that care about the internet and the future of our digital lives.

Lawless is available from amazon.com.au. A free open access full PDF of the book is also available.

About Nicolas SuzorProfessor Nicolas Suzor

Professor Nicolas Suzor researches the regulation of networked society. He is a Professor of the QUT School of Law, and a Chief Investigator of QUT’s Digital Media Research Centre.

Nic is also the Deputy Chair of Digital Rights Watch, an Australian non-profit organisation whose mission is to ensure that Australian citizens are equipped, empowered and enabled to uphold their digital rights.

You can learn more about Professor Nicolas Suzor and his research in his staff profile.

Read Dr Michael Guihot’s article about rules on the ethical development of artificial intelligence in The Conversation.

Dr Michael Guihot’s article  “Will we ever agree to just one set of rules on the ethical development of artificial intelligence?” has been published in The Conversation.

In his article, Michael discusses the ‘many, many guidelines’ from governments and other bodies around the world that seek to instil an ethical approach to developing artificial intelligence and whether these guidelines are enforceable. He also discusses the need to build some global consensus on artificial intelligence .

Michael’s current research focuses on ‘Artificial Intelligence, Robots and the Law” and he is currently co-authoring a book by that name. Michael’s research investigates the intersection of new technology and law, including the regulation of artificial intelligence, and the impact of new technologies on power and governance including how changes in global power structures affect private and public governance, and the impact of new technology on legal institutions.

Learn more about Michael and his publications in his staff profile.

Digital waste hidden behind the elegance of new technologies

Dr Michael Guihot was invited to present his paper ‘Elegance and Waste: Heat Loss as Waste in the Digital Age’ at a symposium at UNSW in December held as part of UNSW Law’s project Digital Humanitarianism: Law and Policy Challenges.

The theme for the symposium was about rethinking the relations between data (information, knowledge, value) and waste (junk, trash, spam). Michael’s paper looked at heat loss in data centres as digital waste that is hidden behind the elegance of new technologies and further obscured by the big tech companies that can control the discourse.

Other presenters came from NYU Shanghai, Berkeley, and the University of Alberta. The project is run by Fleur Johns and the symposium was supported by the Allens Hub.

Michael’s current research focuses on Artificial Intelligence, Robots and the Law and he is currently co-authoring a book by that name. Michael’s research investigates the intersection of new technology and law, including the regulation of artificial intelligence, and the impact of new technologies on power and governance including how changes in global power structures affect private and public governance, and the impact of new technology on legal institutions.

Learn more about Michael and his publications in his staff profile.

Are traditional administrative law doctrines still fit for purpose in the digital age?

Dr Anna Huggins

Dr Anna Huggins considers the implications of a recent Full Federal Court decision in AusPubLaw.

Dr Anna Huggins examines the case of Pintarich which she says will have implications for the reliance that Australian taxpayers can place on computer-generated correspondence from the Australian Tax Office. It raises interesting and complex questions about when an authorised officer makes a decision, and whether traditional conceptions of what constitutes a ‘decision’ are still appropriate in the digital era.

Automated processes hold promise for enhancing the efficiency and consistency of administrative decisions, particularly in high volume decision-making contexts. However, these advantages need to be weighed against the risks to public trust in government decision making caused by computer-generated errors, for which traditional administrative law doctrines thus far appear to provide limited protection.

As alluded to by Kerr J in his dissenting judgment in Pintarich, legal conceptions of what constitutes a decision and other administrative law doctrines need to evolve to reflect the reality of how decisions are made in practice in the digital age. Mr Pintarich’s unsuccessful appeal to the High Court represents a missed opportunity to further consider what constitutes a decision in an evolving administrative decision-making context.

Find out more about Dr Anna Huggins and her research outputs in e-prints.

Could algorithms help magistrates and judges in making sentencing decisions?

Dr Nigel Stobbs

QUT Faculty of Law’s Dr Nigel Stobbs is collaborating with a team of legal experts, judges and data scientists to create a framework for the efficient and ethical use of machine learning algorithms and artificial intelligence in Australia’s criminal justice system.

Together with Professors Dan Hunter and Mirko Bagaric from Swinburne University, Dr Nigel Stobbs recently published details of a proposed trial of sentencing algorithms that will provide magistrates and judges with historical and predictive data to assist in making sentencing decisions.

The current stage of the project involves working with stakeholders to determine what levels of functionality, transparency and control are required over forecasting outcomes, to overcome the well-established risks of ‘Algorithmic Aversion’, which make users less confident in the value of machine learning tools.

The team is seeking funding for the next phase of the project in 2019, which will include development of a beta algorithm for field testing with judges in Queensland and Victoria and evaluation of user preferences for data visualisation interfaces and desktop dashboards.

Nigel will be presenting preliminary results of this project within the proceedings of the International Society for Therapeutic Jurisprudence, held in conjunction with the XXXVIth International Congress on Law and Mental Health in Rome, 21–26 July 2019.

To find out more, read the publication Can sentencing be enhanced by the use of artificial intelligence?

EVENT: Intellectual Property and Sustainable Development

Join some of the leading thinkers in their fields for a one-day symposium on 6 September 2018, on the relationship between intellectual property and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

As well as special guest Associate Professor Sara Bannerman, the Canada Research Chair in Communication Policy and Governance at McMaster University, this event will feature speakers from QUT, Griffith University, and the University of Queensland.

Associate Professor Sara Bannerman – Canada Research Chair in Communication Policy and Governance, McMaster University

This event is part of the research theme of international trade and sustainable development at the QUT IP and Innovation Law Research Program. It will cover issues such as access to knowledge, public health, access to clean energy and climate change, and the global economy. Particular focus will be given to global issues within the remit of the World Intellectual Property Organization’s Development Agenda.

This event considers the relationship between intellectual property and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The new Secretary-General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres has expressed concerns about the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. ‘Implementation has begun, but the clock is ticking… The rate of progress in many areas is far slower than needed to meet the targets by 2030.’ The Director-General of the World Intellectual Property Organization Francis Gurry has emphasised the interconnections between intellectual property and the Innovation Goal (SG9). He also stressed that innovation has an impact on a number of other SDGs, such as SDG2 (End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture), SDG3, SDG6 (Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all), SDG7 (Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all), SDG 8, SDG11 (Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable), and SDG13 (Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts).

Special guest

Associate Professor Sara Bannerman
Canada Research Chair in Communication Policy and Governance, McMaster University

Speakers

Dr Md Shahiduzzaman – Research Fellow, QUT Business School, Management, QUT
Muhammad Zaheer Abbas – PhD Law Candidate, QUT
Dr Rowena Maguire – Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Law, Law School, QUT
David J. Jefferson, JD – PhD Candidate, University of Queensland
Dr Carol Richards – Senior Lecturer, School of Management, Business School, QUT
Professor Charles Lawson – Griffith University
Associate Professor Saiful Karim – Faculty of Law, Law School, QUT
Professor Virginia Barbour – Director AOASG, QUT
Professor Matthew Rimmer – Professor of Intellectual Property and Innovation Law, Faculty of Law, QUT
Sanath Sameera Wijesinghe – PhD Researcher, QUT
Jocelyn Bosse  – PhD Candidate, University of Queensland
Dr Kamalesh Adhikari – Research Fellow, University of Queensland
Dr Peter Walters – Senior Lecturer, University of Queensland
Dr Frances Humphries – Griffith University

Please follow the link to register – http://bit.ly/IPandSD

IPIL Symposium: The Economics of Creativity

The Intellectual Property and Innovation Law Program (IPIL), the Digital Media Research Centre (DMRC) and the QUT Faculty of Law recently hosted the ‘The Economics of Creativity’ Symposium to discuss the legislation pertaining to the digital market.

Professor Ruth Towse, Professor in Economics of Creative Industries at Bournemouth University (UK)Dr Kevin Sanson, Senior Lecturer in the School of Communication at QUTProfessor David Throsby AO, Professor of Economics at Macquarie UniversityAssociate Professor Nicolas Suzor, Principal Research Fellow at QUT Faculty of Law and Dr Kylie Pappalardo, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at QUT Faculty of Law, offered a comprehensive perspective on how professionals from the legal, economic and creative industries work together to balance the needs of consumers and creators.

Professor David Throsby AO, Professor of Economics at Macquarie University and Professor Ruth Towse, Professor in Economics of Creative Industries at Bournemouth University (UK)

The event was inspired by two empirical projects conducted by Dr Pappalardo and Associate Professor Suzor in 2017.

In their first project, the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN)sponsored Associate Professor Suzor, Dr Pappalardo and colleagues in the DMRC to research how Australian consumers access digital markets. The project revealed the discrepancies between Australian and American consumers regarding the access and costs of film, TV, music and games. The results of the project are available at the Digital Media Observatory.

In their second project, Imagination foregone: A qualitative study of the reuse practices of Australian creators, funded by the Australian Digital Alliance (ADA), Dr Pappalardo and Associate Professor Suzor found that Australian creators are intimidated by licensing fees to reuse content and view the amounts of licensing fees as unfair and stifling.

At the Symposium, Professor Throsby spoke on his own work into this area, Making Art Work: An Economic Study of Professional Artists in Australia, and explained that although artists contribute 60% of their time to creative work, less than 40% of their income is related to this.

The Symposium’s discussion also focused upon the dangers of digitising integral parts of our cultural history. Dr Sanson questioned how society’s move towards services such as Netflix impacts small, local and obscure movies, which would once have been preserved on disc.

To answer this question, Dr Pappalardo, Associate Professor Suzor and Dr Sanson plan to continue work on the Digital Media Observatory project.

Following the event, Dr Pappalardo and Associate Professor Suzor were awarded an Institute for Future Environments Catapult grant. In collaboration with academics from the Creative Industries and Science and Engineering Faculties, this project will investigate how blockchain can help publishers adjust to new digital markets.

The importance of interdisciplinary practice in this area was emphasised by Dr Pappalardo.

‘In order to understand how the internet and digital markets are really affecting creators, such as their impacts on how creators can market and sell their works and earn a living, it is critical that economists, creators, creative industries scholars and copyright lawyers work together. This is a complex problem that requires many minds from different disciplines to solve,’ she said.

To keep up to date with these projects, subscribe to the Faculty of Law News and Events.