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News

EU and UK laws in conflict on copyright

The Federation Against Software Theft : 01 December, 2009  (Technical Article)
With the UK's anti-piracy law about to come into effect, European Union legislation vote looks set to founder it whilst still in dock
FAST has urgently responded to the European Parliament's telecoms and Internet reform package with concern. The not-for-profit software organisation that promotes the legitimate use of software had supported the UK's recently published Digital Economy Bill that seeks, amongst other things, to restrain the activities of persistent pilfering of software.

Julian Heathcote Hobbins, General Counsel at FAST said: "The EU telecoms law provides very high levels of security to the consumer, which is all well and good. Yet it seems madness that software thieves may be in the frame for extra protection. No one wants the innocent having their Internet cut off. Likewise no one wants persistent illegal file-sharers cut off without acceptable evidence, but does it have to be so difficult and costly to simply uphold a rule of law which is a last resort."

The UK has until May 2011 to include the EU legislation within national law, but this may come into conflict with the Bill that seeks restrictions including possibly disconnection, on determined copyright thieves.

The EU's law states: "A user's Internet access may be restricted, if necessary and proportionate, only after a fair and impartial procedure including the user's right to be heard." This could mean when put into practice is not clear, but could impinge directly on the disconnection right if all efforts fail to educate a persistent infringer.

At present in the UK rights holders must compel ISPs to give up user data through the courts, and then take the pirate to court, and no punishment element is added that the copyright infringer is forced to pay.

Hobbins states, "This may undermine the Bill's proposals to secure necessary justice used as a last resort from those who cause real harm to software developers and publishers, most of whom are not big businesses."

Eight per cent of the UK gross domestic product is down to intellectual property, and 1.9 million people are employed in the UK's creative industries. Software losses to piracy (£1.3 billion) are more than those of the film and music industries combined.

Loss from piracy to the film industry is £268 million a year according to Respect for Film; and £180m to the music industry 2008 according to the BPI Statistical handbook.
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