In August 2012 Max Bulinski, from the University of Michigan in the United States, joined the ALRC as a full-time intern.
Max was the recipient of a Bates Fellowship, enabling him to work at the ALRC, in Sydney, for nearly 4 months. Max worked closely with the Copyright inquiry team and, in this interview, explains a bit about what that involved.
Sabina Wynn (SW): Hello. I’m Sabina Wynn, Executive Director of the Australian Law Reform Commission, and I’m here with Max Bulinski who’s a law student from the University of Michigan in the United States, and he’s been able to do an internship with us for about 4 months now, full time, as part of the Bates Fellowship. Max, perhaps you can start by telling us why you wanted to do an internship with the ALRC.
Max Bulinski (MB): Sure Sabina, thanks. I was looking at doing legal development, and there aren’t a lot of internships within the States that focus on this specifically. So, I basically went into Google, and typed in phrases like “law reform” and things like that, to find opportunities abroad to do this kind of work. While it’s in Australia, obviously, and not the US, it still seemed very applicable due to the comparative nature of your work. And the more I looked into the organisation the more I found that, and the more appealing it became.
SW: And you were facilitated in your internship by the Bates Foundation. Could you just explain a little bit about what that is?
MB: Sure. The Bates Foundation was established by Henry and Clara Bates, and it’s established for overseas legal work, so it can be granted to anyone who meets a set of criteria, and the most important of those is that they’re doing work not on American soil. Traditionally it’s gone a lot to people who want to do immigration work in Cambodia, or development, that sort of work. But, they were good enough to give me the opportunity to come here to Australia, and I was really able to stay here a lot longer than I would have otherwise been because they cover things like housing … room and board expenses primarily.
SW: Well it’s been really lucky for the ALRC to be able to have you, working on the Copyright Inquiry, which is the team that you were assigned to. So, you’ve been working now with the legal team, with Commissioner Jill McKeough—what sort of tasks have you actually been doing?
MB: A lot of what I’ve been doing is research and writing on background information of copyright. Because we’re currently at a stage in the inquiry where we’re looking at what issues there are and trying to evaluate whether really those are accurate and consulting with stakeholders to evaluate where we might need to put a little more pressure on the law, or where it might actually be fine and just a perceived problem. What that actually looks like, day to day, is a lot of legal research, writing memos to the legal officers, and then we go to consultations with stakeholders. And I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to accompany the team to many of those consultations.
SW: So how have you found the consultation process?
MB: The process is actually quite different than I expected. A lot of it is, of course, informing on the process of the Australian Law Reform Commission, and exactly how we go about our inquiry, and then we start getting a little more substantive and talking about: What are the problems that you are having? What would you like to do that copyright is stopping you from doing? Questions like that. And that’s been hugely informational for me to see not only from an academic standpoint what issues there are with copyright, but really what happens on the ground and how it’s difficult for different groups of people.
SW: So, what sorts of people have you actually consulted with? I know you’ve been to Canberra, to Melbourne, but what are the sorts of organisations you’ve actually been consulting with?
MB: Well copyright, as you know, really runs the gamut. Everyone, it seems, deals with copyright to some degree or another. So we’ve met with groups ranging from the Australian Football League, down in Melbourne, to government agencies in Canberra dealing with digital broadcasts and things of that nature. Another group that we keep coming back to, that’s a fairly large stakeholder in this particular inquiry, is all of the collecting agencies— Screenrights, music, APRA, all of those kinds of agencies.
SW: So, as your internship comes to an end, what have you actually enjoyed most about your time at the ALRC?
MB: Well, first of all, I think the office is really great. It’s a small office, but, um, it’s very easy to walk into people’s offices and talk to them and, I think, particularly right after a consultation it’s a fantastic time, because you say, Ok, given the issues that we’ve just heard, how do we fix those? And, yeah, that might not be what we end up doing, but it helps to think through all of the issues and, it’s just great little mini brainstorming sessions that you get that I feel like you don’t get in a lot of other settings.
SW: So we at the ALRC have, as you know, have quite a few people coming to us from overseas to do internships, not just from America, but from the South Pacific, etc, but what advice would you give to an international law student who is interested in coming and spending some time and doing an internship with us?
MB: Well I think I’m … well I’m obviously most qualified to talk about from the American perspective. And I think that there are a few channels (particularly American) law schools try and funnel you down, and this definitely isn’t one of them. But for people interested in comparative law—this is where the point extends more broadly—this is an invaluable experience because you get to see not only how the Australian system functions, but in looking at restructuring Australian law we look at the UK, Canada, the US, South Pacific nations, so you really get a sense of the broader landscape and how law is changing. Um, and so I guess my advice is that, yeah, if that is what you are interested in, go for it, and if you can find some sort of funding, I mean fellowships like mine are out there, it enables you to stay for a little longer and see more of the process. Which I think is fantastic.
SW: Well Max it’s been great to have you at the ALRC. You’ve done some fantastic work and made a real contribution, and we’ll certainly miss you.
MB: Thank you Sabina.