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Eurocrats back tighter protection for digital copyright

Proposed legislation could hit software users too

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The European Parliament yesterday backed controversial legislation, dubbed the Report on Copyright in the Information Society, that seeks to increase protection of copyright material in digital world. The case has become a tug-of-war between lobbyists. On one side, artists and content providers keen to protect their assets (see Musicians demand EU protect copyright on the Net) -- on the other, consumer and civil liberties organisations determined to ensure the legislation did not limit personal freedoms. The two sides' differences boil down to how much freedom you allow individuals to make copies of copyright material for their personal use. The pro-controls lobby heralded the European Parliament's vote as "absolutely crucial to ensuring the future security of digital content produced by Europe's publishers". On the other hand, the rival faction claimed it has given the media "a blank cheque" by "handing over private copying". As it stands, the legislation will allow individuals to make copies of texts or recordings they bought for their personal use only if rightholders receive "fair compensation". That means the introduction of levies on recording media and equipment. Most European countries already collect such a tax -- only the UK, Ireland and Luxembourg do not -- as does the US (which, incidentally, is why the music industry had a problem with Diamond Multimedia's Rio MP3 player -- as a computer device, it did not qualify for the levy). Governments may allow individuals to make copies of work as teaching aids or for research purposes, but again, the rightholders have to be compensated. Like the personal use clause, this will probably affect only a handful of states that don't already require such compensation. Of greater concern, however, is the clause that bans the private copying of digital material protected by anti-piracy technology. What's worrying here is that it allows content providers to add such technology and bypass the previous two clauses, and might have far reaching affects on other digital industries, such as the software business. Technically, if a software developer issues a program or data in encrypted form, making a persobal back-up of the disc will become illegal in Europe. Quite how this would be policed, is another matter, and one that may see this aspect of the proposed legislation thrown out before it becomes law. The proposed legislation, modified slightly by the European Parliament, will now be submitted to the European Community's 15 member governments, and then back to the Parliament before being finally becoming law. ® See also File caching faces chop from Eurocrats Anti-caching lobby wins round one of Euro vote

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