Journal of Law, Information and Science
This is the twentieth volume of the Journal of Law, Information and Science (JLIS) and marks a period of great growth and development for us as an academic and legal publisher. Those who are reading the print edition of this journal will note the new format and cover. However, we have also moved to increase our online presence and readership, whilst maintaining links with our traditional audience, contributors and partners. The need to keep pace with the interminable march of technology is not only a major theme of this journal, but a practical reality for us as legal academic publishers.
The JLIS began its life as the Journal of Law and Information Science almost three decades ago in 1981 under the Editorship of Dr Roger Brown at NSWIT (now UTS). Dr Brown foresaw the major influence information science and technology would have on law and society and therefore the importance of regulatory dialogue about it. From what I understand, the JLIS was one of the first, if not the first, academic journal outside of the United States to be dedicated to these matters, and remained so when Dr Brown took a Professorship at the University of Tasmania, bringing the journal with him. Looking back through the Editorial in 1986, I note Professor Brown’s pride that, in that year, the journal manuscript would be published on an ‘IBM PC-XT microcomputer using Microsoft-WORD, and is typeset directly from diskette’. This was apparently quite advanced at the time.
In 1995, in a mark of the new direction of legal publishing, Graham Greenleaf, Andrew Mowbray, Geoffrey King and Peter Van Dijk published the first article about a (then) new legal database, the Australasian Legal Information Institute (AustLII) entitled, ‘legal research facility on the internet’ in the JLIS (vol 6(1) 1995). AustLII, now in its fifteenth year, has become become Australia’s most popular, and arguably one of the world’s most important open access online legal databases and has changed the way academics, students, professionals and the public access and use legal resources. We are therefore very happy to report that the JLIS — nearing its thirtieth year — will now be carried in the Australasian Legal Information Institute (AustLII) Legal Scholarship Library project. We hope that our partnership with AustLII will help broaden our readership outside of our traditional audience.
We are also very proud to report that we will be publishing electronic content through RMIT’s Informit e-Library which enables us to provide rapid publishing online; something very important for our subject matter and indeed something that is increasingly important in the modern information age. In the future we hope to work with publishers such as Informit to produce rapid reviews and commentaries on contemporary issues in law, science and technology. As part of that move we are currently collecting articles for a special edition on unmanned vehicles (drones) which have received a great deal of attention in the press due to their use in middle-east war zones, but surprisingly little academic commentary. We hope that our upcoming edition serves to increase the legal and social scrutiny of this technology and invite learned contributions on the subject matter. More details may be found on our newly updated website at http://www.jlisjournal.org
Along with the technological changes to the journal we have updated our editorial personnel. I have taken over the role as Chief Editor of the Journal from Michael Stokes, who I thank for his long service with the journal. I look forward to working with Professor Dianne Nicol, Associate Editor and welcome Bruce Newey, our new General Editor. Bruce makes a fantastic addition to the team and has already played a pivotal role in our work to rebuild the journal and bring it up to date.
We are also very happy to report that Hon Dr R A Brown, the journal’s original Editor and now a magistrate of the Local Court of New South Wales, will be rejoining us to take up a position on the Editorial Board. We also welcome Associate Professor Benjamin Goold from the Faculty of Law, University of British Columbia, a noted international expert in surveillance and Dr Chris Dent, Senior Research Fellow with the Intellectual Property Research Institute of Australia, University of Melbourne. They join an extremely eminent group of professionals and academics from across the globe whom we are privileged to have as Board Members.
I am pleased to note the continued service of our Chairman, the Hon Michael Kirby AC CMG, who has held that role since 1981. The Hon Michael Kirby has published several papers with the JLIS over the past thirty years and is our first author in this edition. He reproduces here a talk delivered to the University of Tasmania in September 2010 on forensic evidence, and in particular the use of DNA evidence in the criminal process ‘to convict the guilty and clear the innocent’. Whilst His Honor describes the vital contribution this science has had to the rule of law, he also provides, by way of example, warnings about the dangers of its misuse or misunderstanding’s of its fallibility. He makes a series of recommendations for legal and policy reform.
The fallibility of DNA evidence is exemplified in the recent Australian case of Mr Farah Abdulkadir Jama, who was wrongly convicted by a Victorian court on the basis of contaminated DNA evidence. The case is described by the Hon Kirby herein and also in a report by the Hon Frank Vincent reviewed in this edition by Katherine Rayment a PhD candidate at the Tasmanian Institute of Law Enforcement Studies (pp 238–242). Anton Hughes, a PhD candidate at the University of Tasmania and Associate to the Honourable Justice Porter also provides an in-depth case brief of the long-anticipated decision of the United States Supreme Court in Bilski v Kappos, which was delivered in June this year (pp 229–237). That case relates to the important question of the scope of patentable subject matter which had not been examined in that jurisdiction for some thirty years. Our final student contribution is by Caitlin Dwyer, who reviews Alan Davidson’s new work, The Law of Electronic Commerce, published by Cambridge University Press in 2009. She recommends the book as providing ‘a well researched snap shot of where the law currently stands regarding a broad range of electronic issues’ including cybercrime, digital copyright and electronic commerce.
The issues created by copyright in the digital environment, particularly film, television and the internet were subject to extensive litigation in Australia in the recent The Panel Case litigation. In his comprehensive article, author Ben Mee (pp 61–96), considers the impact of that case on media producers, in particular on their assumption that the use of copyright material for entertainment purposes would be protected from litigation due to industry goodwill, de minimis use or the provisions of the copyright legislation. He describes the shockwaves in the entertainment industry created by the case and the copyright reform process undertaken by the Australian federal government in response. However, he ultimately concludes that the problems created by that litigation remain.
Discussion of intellectual property and other laws for the purposes of regulatory deliberation and reform is also the subject of the Biobanks Information Paper by authors Professor Margaret Otlowski, Professor Dianne Nicol and Dr Mark Stranger (pp 97–228). The Information Paper was produced by the National Health and Medical Research Council to inform the establishment, management and governance of biobanks in Australia and is reproduced as a peer reviewed work for an academic audience in this journal. The authors describe the importance of biobanks for national public health and medical research whilst highlighting the social, ethical and legal implications of the use of the genetic information stored within them. The aim of the paper is to ‘promote best practice in biobanks, and to stimulate thought and discussion about best practice, by identifying the issues to be considered’. We consider the paper to be a vital contribution to legal reform and development of novel technologies and feel it is an invaluable inclusion to this journal.
One nascent technology which has not yet been subject to regulatory development or scrutiny is nanotechnology. This is despite the fact, as Dr Hitoshi Nasu and Associate Professor Thomas Faunce point out (pp 23–60), that nanotechnology has already made its way onto the battlefield. Their fascinating article examines the frighteningly silent growth of nano-weapons and critically examines the ‘regulatory failure’ of international humanitarian law and arms control law to sufficiently deal with their dangers. The authors consider which, if any, international regulations cover nano-weapons and make suggestions for the creation of more robust regulatory mechanisms under international law. We hope this important paper serves to inform future deliberation on the technology in international circles.