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EU Copyright Directive coming to the UK

22 April 2003

The UK is implementing the EUCD which is similar to the USA's DMCA - Outlawing the copying of encrypted digital content. Each EU country is free to implement it however they like within certain constraints. Unfortuently the Patent Office's proposal chose to use all the bits protecting the content owners but none of the bits protecting consumers' rights. The patent office was running a consultation period for people's feedback. Below is the letter I sent them.
Thankfully, it looks like the UK Patent office received enough questions on its proposed implementation that it is having to carefully reconsider its ideas.

Thanks to the excellent Stand.org.uk and EuroRights for their reporting and analysis of this and other important UK digital rights issues.


RE: UK’s implementation of the European Copyright Directive (2001/29/EC)

Dear Ms. Arnesen,

I consider myself a stakeholder by way of the fact that by profession I am an IT consultant and software developer; As an individual, I frequently purchase music and other media; Also, I am a UK citizen.
The Proposal in its current form is overly broad and restrictive, such that it will outlaw common business practices; effectively stop UK research into cryptography and ignore accepted fair-use rights of individuals.
The Directive calls for certain exceptions to the legal protection of technical measures used to protect copyrighted works, such as in the case of cryptography research. The Proposal does not currently include this provision. Like the United State’s Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the Proposal should include language that makes it clear that all individuals who contribute to research are exempted from prosecution(1) to remove even the threat of legal action, which in itself can deter researchers.
In addition other, easily exercisable, exceptions should be made to allow UK business to continue to reverse-engineer computer software, specifically file formats and communications protocols, so that they may continue to develop software that is interoperable with proprietary software developed by other companies in the UK and abroad.
The current protection on reverse-engineering is also necessary for the success of Open Source Software (OSS). OSS is a development methodology whereby individuals voluntarily contribute their time and expertise in a collaborative effort to produce software. So far it has shown to produce software of vary high quality such as the GNU/Linux operating system and the Apache Web server. These two projects alone are implemented widely in UK universities and businesses(2) . Restricting the development and use of open source projects in the UK would harm a wide range of UK businesses that currently benefit from this freely available software. Many governments are currently recognizing the benefits of Open Source Software(3) and indeed the UK government has a policy on considering OSS for software projects(4). Restricting its use and development could prove costly to the UK in the future.
The Proposal also allows beneficiaries, such as academics, archivists and broadcasters, to claim exceptions allowing them to bypass the technological measures protecting media. However, the procedure for claiming these exceptions – by writing to the Secretary of State on a case-by-case basis – is both cumbersome and imposes an unlikely burden on both the individual and the Secretary of State. Even if granted, the user must then obtain an unprotected copy of the work which may involve an unfeasible amount of technical skill or protracted discussions with the copyright owner. In either case, the likely outcome is that individuals will find this to be too much of a burden and either flout the law or decide against using the copyrighted material.
Finally the Proposal effectively invalidates existing copyright law in regard to fair use, as excerpts can no longer be taken, and copyright duration, as the technological measure might be of indefinite length, thus preventing the material from entering the public domain at the end of copyright’s protection.
In order to avoid unnecessary restrictions on individuals and avoid an over-concentration of power in the hands of content owners, I believe that the proposal needs to be re-thought and exceptions added so that works may continue to benefit both the purchasers and society at large while providing a return on the creator’s investment.

Sincerely,
Dave

Footnotes:
(1) See section 1201 subsection (g) of Title 17 of the United States Code: http://www.title17.com/contentStatute/chpt12/sec1201.html
(2) Netcraft.com, publishers of a well respected Web server survey, report that 53% of .uk Web servers run Apache: http://www.netcraft.com/Survey/Reports/0208/bydomain/uk/
(3) http://linux.oreillynet.com/pub/a/linux/2002/07/15/osgov_timeline.html
(4) http://www.ogc.gov.uk/oss/OSS-policy.html

Replies: 1 Comment

“If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea.”

Thomas Jefferson said @ 07/08/2003 06:22 PM EST

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