UK file-swappers could face jail under new law

UK file-swappers could face jail under new law

Summary: New UK regulations that will implement a European directive on copyright could mean up to two years in jail for file-swappers

SHARE:
TOPICS: Government UK
26
UK file swappers face up to two years' imprisonment under new copyright regulations, which implement the provisions of a European directive, that are expected to take effect in the UK this month.

The Copyright and Related Rights Regulations 2003 was laid before Parliament on Friday after nearly a year's delay. It is expected to be passed in time to come into force by the end of October, according to legal experts.

The Copyright Directorate, a Patent Office department, had a deadline of 22 December last year to implement the European Copyright Directive of 2001 (known as EUCD), but delayed doing so several times under pressure from groups representing copyright holder interests as well as civil liberties and consumer rights organisations.

The EUCD is intended to aid copyright holders in cracking down on counterfeiting and piracy, but organisations such as UK think tank the Foundation for Information Policy Research (FIPR) argue that it is likely to tighten the grip of large companies on consumers, because of the way it is being implemented across the European Union.

In a recent analysis of the EUCD, FIPR found that most countries were failing to protect researchers, business competition and consumers in their implementations of the directive, while giving full force to measures that criminalise the circumvention of copyright controls.

Critics argue that such measures will be used by corporate interests to block competition for such products as printer cartridges and garage-door openers -- two cases that have already surfaced under the DMCA in the US.

FIPR director Ian Brown said that although the UK law compares favourably with the implementations in some other European states, it did not appear that consumer-rights groups' criticisms had been taken into account. "I don't think there has been much change since the first draft," he said.

The UK's music industry also lobbied against the law -- but on the grounds that it was too lenient, and would drive the music industry out of the country.

Brown said that an exemption had been built in allowing cryptographic researchers to circumvent copyright protections, but said the language of this provision was "perhaps less clear than it should be". One of the DMCA-like provisions of the EUCD is the criminalisation of circumventing copyright protections, in other words cracking anti-piracy technology on DVDs, CDs, printer cartridges and the like.

Other observers noted that the new UK law could be used to imprison file-swappers on peer-to-peer (P2P) networks such as Kazaa for up to two years.

One of the law's provisions states that "A person who infringes copyright in a work by communicating the work to the public... to such an extent as to affect prejudicially the owner of the copyright... commits an offence."

Struan Robertson, editor of the newsletter Out-Law, produced by UK law firm Masons, noted that this could be used to fine P2P users or send them to prison for up to two years. "By making a music file available for download for any other users of your chosen P2P network, you are communicating the work -- potentially at least -- to millions, i.e. to an extent that the music industry could say is prejudicing its rights," he said in a statement.

FIPR's Brown agreed the UK regulations allowed scope for abuse, but said that on this provision, the UK was bound by the provisions of the EUCD itself.

"It's the directive that's the problem," he said. "The groups who are concerned have to make sure their voices are heard next year when the European Commission reviews [the EUCD], and suggest changes."

Topic: Government UK

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

26 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • why do they always have to do stuff like that, i mean who are we hurting when we file share.nobody.and wouldn't you rather have people settle individual claims for copyright than be froced to pay, that is quite a hefty sum to be putting on the line, i think that they should blasted leave us alone
    anonymous
  • oh yes this sounds like a reasonable response. Lets jail home tapers as well.
    Commercail piracy one thing But jailing p2p users.
    anonymous
  • Perhaps it would be better to jail the entire music industry (especially the RIAA) for their staggering greed.
    anonymous
  • I want to know why europe has the right to tell us what to do anyway as we never had a referendum about joining it...but that's a different point !!

    I download stuff and it's always either deoms, live or unavailable recordings - so to the record companies - YOU START RELEASING IT (for a reasonable price not the current joke) AND I'LL BUY IT.
    anonymous
  • I copy music CDs for my own convenience to play in my car and to take on holiday to avoid risking the originals. Does this new law make me a criminal?

    I also question the UK slavishly following EU directives. The French and the Spanish pick and choose and so should we.
    anonymous
  • I hate to say it... but thats the best reason I've seen for a long while to go to jail for...

    we should rally in london... all the p2p users together...

    stand outside number 10... and shout

    "Ok jail us"

    and see what they do >:)

    it will be a VERY sad day if this law is put through...

    raped by the UK government AGAIN !
    anonymous
  • I'm retired, a silver surfer. I am not downloading MP3's for commercial gain. I get enjoyment from the music I download. I used to tape from the radio and I tape concerts from TV. I guess I am guilty. Sorry must hide the police are at the door........
    anonymous
  • They'll be at the news groups yet, mark my words.
    anonymous
  • All i have to say is lets follow the usa again! Plus what i want to know is where does all the money from the fines go. I bet tony blair know?
    anonymous
  • The main reason i share files is to try it before i buy,as the copywrite laws are not in the consumers interests ie once open cant bring back.
    I dont know how many expensive programmes Iv'e bought in the past that are crap and compounded by useless customer service who tend to blame everyone else if they dont work.
    anonymous
  • Lets face it, as the world's climate goes round in circles as it is just now, so too is the rights of everyone on the planet. It's ok for the people who are making these descisions, they probably don't evenknow how to switch a computer on, so they aren't going to get done for it.
    What about the people who can't afford to buy these CD's at
    anonymous
  • whats the point of having a fast connection if you cant share or download anything, what a load of BS
    anonymous
  • I paid good money to msn for there "leagal music downloads" but the site had no new music it cost 99p just to listen to a part of the music and
    anonymous
  • Virtually everyone I know who has internet connection downloads stuff from the p2p networks.

    Also, if someone sends me an email and I forward to someone else without the author's permission, am I also guilty under this new ruling?

    Considering that at least 80% of the world have PCs or have access to them is there a prison big enough to hold 50,000,000 people?

    I think not. More scare tactics to try and stop file sharing -- ain't gonna work.
    anonymous
  • It seems ridiculous to spend time prosecuting people who would pay reasonable download fees that could fund the artist. Surely they need to agree a legal and sensible solution so we are all happy. If the costs of CD's weren't so ridiculous in the UK then less people would see the need for downloading in the first instance.
    anonymous
  • I think its time for the music industry to realise, the public aren't going to pay their BS prices anymore. Since the music industry is full of so much cack music anyway, why are we going to pay ridiculous prices in store (for a CD that will only have 1 or 2 good tracks anyway!) when we can download for free? Take note - George MIchael knows what he's doing. Free downloads of music is the way forward, with the public donating what they see as fair to the quality of music provided, and in other cases, supporting artists through buying gig tickets, merchandise, or buynig the full CD having heard "illegally" downloaded tracks. if the music industry doesn't realise this is the way things are going and move with it, they're F U C T...
    anonymous
  • 14.95 for a disc of 15 tracks on a 10p plastic disc I cant fit in my pocket + distribution I dont need or Promotion I dont care about mmM thats a pound a track (approx) Why not make downloads 10p a track since I dont need the rest??
    anonymous
  • 14.95 for a disc of 15 tracks on a 10p plastic disc I cant fit in my pocket + distribution I dont need or Promotion I dont care about mmM thats a pound a track (approx) Why not make downloads 10p a track since I dont need the rest??
    anonymous
  • the jails are full to bursting point now where are they going to put all these people what a laugh.If the retail discs where'nt so expensive we would'nt have to download who's ripping off who here????
    anonymous
  • I think they will never stop p2p file sharing, think of the legal fee's, if they prosecute 1, they have to prosecute all or else it could create a huge law suit in itself about being unfairly ruled out, who is going to pay all these legal fee's? Its going to be veryyy expensive to send even 1 million people to jail, you have the food in the jail, the staff to cope with that influx, the prisons themselves would need to be expanded, isnt the money / jails better off for convicted rapists ? murderers? Are we really harming people by downloading a song? I will support bands I like, but with so much manufactured pop crap in the shops now, we have no idea what we are buying any more. Theres nothing original anymore, most of the things I see in the shops are just poor covers of decent original songs.
    anonymous