6 September 2012

CPA's lawyers demand I pull the Neil Armstrong speech

Well this is disappointing.

I've received a couple of lawyer's letters acting on behalf of the Certified Practising Accountants Australia and demanding that I pull down the post with Neil Armstrong's speech.

Even threatening to report it to police as in breach of the Surveillance Devices Act 2007 NSW! I think that's a bit of a stretch. Recording with a pocket camera (surveillance device!), in pretty clear sight of others at the table, serving staff, the sound and audio staff, and even the CPA people bringing the Q&A mikes around. And I was far from the only one. Little blue screens visible all over the venue...

But that's lawyers for you - they throw everything in - kitchen sink included. I've read the Act, and think they are taking an extremely broad interpretation of the definition of a "private conversation", not to mention totally overlooking this bit: "but does not include a conversation made in any circumstances in which the parties to it ought reasonably to expect that it might be overheard by someone else." Like venue staff, sound engineers, camera operators, etc, etc...?

They reckon any recording of the speech is the copyright material of the CPA.

Well I have to point out that when the tickets to the event were sold, there was zero mention of not even being able to take a photo. Not until we were there was this stipulated. I think the law would have something to say about imposing conditions that were not made clear at the point of the transaction...

I was a bit cranky about that, and thought dammit, I'm going to anyway. But I didn't do anything with it. It was just for personal recall anyway.

What I did do though was publicise the links to the CPA's interview with Neil Armstrong on this blog as soon as it was available - in two articles that have had more than 200 views and in posts on Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

Not until the great man himself passed away did I even consider doing anything with my recording. But the fact that he gave such a speech is now a part of history. And the history available on Armstrong since the Apollo mission itself is extremely rare. Yet the CPA has done nothing in more than a year to make a copy of the speech available for the wider public. It's clear from high number of views of my post, and plays of the audio file, that there is incredible interest in that speech. The link has been shared by The Smithsonian and by NASA people. By Scientific American, bloggers and journalists around the world.

But what's even more interesting is where hundreds of viewers of the post who didn't listen to the audio file went to? You guessed it - the CPA's interview page, the link for which I put in the same article. I'm sure the CPA's own web analytics would confirm this.

I had hoped that rather than dialogue by lawyer, I would be able to have a direct discussion with CPA CEO Alex Malley about it. It would have been the decent thing to do in the first place anyway, rather than run straight to the lawyers. But their lawyers have informed me that this request has been refused.

This blog is just a private hobby, sharing the wonder of science and other awesome stuff going on around us (and a little bit of politics), and completely free of profit. And I don't have the money to throw at lawyers like the CPA does. So down comes the file sorry.

Of course, if the CPA organised permission from the Armstrong family to publish a quality recording of the speech, then everyone would be happy. And a unique part of history would be preserved in a manner deserving of the importance it represents.

In the meantime, I'm sorry if you missed out on hearing it. It's out of my hands.