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Digital Economy Act Inadequate For Software Piracy Protection

The Federation Against Software Theft : 17 January, 2011  (Company News)
FAST has issued a warning to the government that software copyright infringement isn’t adequately catered for within the new Digital Economy Act and requires its own legislation
The software industry needs its own legislation to combat copyright infringement because the Digital Economy Act (and the existing Copyright Act) will be ineffective in combating software piracy, the chairman of the Digital Economy All-Party Parliamentary Group (DEAPPG) was told this week.

The warning came at a unique event convened by FLAG, the Federation Against Software Theft’s (FAST) Legal Advisory Group, where parties from all sides of the debate came to discuss the future of the Digital Economy Act (DEA).

Speaking from his perspective as an SME software business, Paul Gunn, CEO of specialist property software firm PPM Associates warned the DEAPPG chairman Eric Joyce MP that current copyright laws were “like operating in the Wild West”.

“Existing intellectual property (IP) protection law pre-dates the World Wide Web, and this outdated legal framework weakens our ability to protect our IP,” said Gunn.

“Technology is developing so fast that the law cannot keep up,” he continued. “For software companies, it is like operating in the Wild West. The problem with the [Digital Economy] Act (and the existing Copyright Act) is that they have too narrow a remit and cannot effectively deal with software piracy in its current form. Software deserves its own Act to protect software firms, especially the smaller ones, from IP infringement.”

The discussion also heard from TalkTalk’s director of strategy, Andrew Heaney, who reiterated his company’s views on the DEA and criticised rights holders’ efforts to engage in the debate.

“The DEA isn’t a sledgehammer to crack a nut – it’s a sledgehammer that misses the nut completely,” said Heaney. “Any legislation to combat file sharing needs to be proportionate, fair and balanced. The problems with the DEA are the cost, the ineffectiveness and the unintended consequences, such as vicarious liability."

Heaney also said that the onus was on rights holders to engage with Internet

Service Providers (ISPs) to come up with a workable approach to piracy. “There is an open door [at TalkTalk and other ISPs] to all parties who want to discuss solutions, but we’ve had silence from the other side,” he said.

There were also presentations about two recent developments affecting copyright law. Frank Jennings, partner at law firm DMH Stallard, discussed the judgment against the US file sharing platform Lime Wire, and the implications for personal liability. Simon Malynicz from Hogarth Chambers explored the recent SAS Institute v World Programming Ltd ruling, which found that software’s functionality was not legally protected in the same way as its source code.
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