Know All the Rules When You Want to Copy Music

The Journal (Newcastle, England), October 16, 2003 | Go to article overview
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Know All the Rules When You Want to Copy Music


Byline: By Matthew Rippon

You might think that you are permitted to make copies of music you purchased on vinyl to play in the car, or to convert CDs you have bought into MP3s to play on the bus to work. That's only fair.

You might think that if it was forbidden for you to do so, there would be a warning on the label. You'd be wrong.

Here's your wake-up call. Under the copyright laws, you are permitted to do only those things that the rights holder says you can, plus a few other things added by statute.

Unlike in America, in the UK there has never been an exemption for personal use, and an opportunity for the incorporation of such an exemption has been spurned.

The much-vaunted Copyright Directive will be implemented in this country on October 31, amending our Copyright laws.

The directive offered member states a list of possible exemptions, including an exemption for the making of private personal copies, and gave them a choice as to which to apply.

The Copyright Directive, like the American Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) flowed from a series of international treaties back in the mid-90s.

Following the implementation of the DMCA in America, it was perhaps presumed that the private use exemption would be included in the UK regulations. After all, how can such copying realistically be prevented? Is the recording industry really intending to pursue all who have infringed in this way?

Of course, the DMCA is not without its flaws.

Like the Copyright Directive, the DMCA introduces criminal sanctions for those who seek to subvert digital rights management (DRM) technology, as the Russian programmer Dimitri Skylarov found when he was arrested after cracking Adobe's e-book software.

Arguments have raged over the encryption used for DVD, called CSS, on which the region classification system is based.

Critics suggest that the level of encryption is so low that it provides little real protection, and that CSS is really intended only as a tool to divide the world's markets and maximise profits.

More recently SunnComm Technologies produced DRM built into CD-RWs restricting consumers to burning only three copies.

A Princeton graduate student discovered a novel way of overcoming such software. Simply hold down the shift key while clicking - a method he described as "Windows 101".

SunnComm accused him of interfering with their DRM technology, and threatened a $10m lawsuit and furthermore, suggested that criminal proceedings were appropriate.

But should publishing such information really be considered a circumvention of DRM technology?

Is it right to prosecute someone for defeating software that has bugs that the designers admit they were aware of?

The British Phonographic Industry discovered the easiest way of dealing with a problem like this was to treat it with common sense.

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