Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Library calls for update to copyright laws

It isn't just "pirates", unwashed hippies and computer geeks who are upset at the current direction copyright law is being pushed. The national British Library, also wants copyright law to be updated.

The British Library warned that the law could easy be rendered obsolete by changes in technology, and that technologies like Digital Restrictions Management software was riding roughshod over the rights given by Copyright Law. In effect, DRM takes away rights that the law gives.

(Actually, it isn't quite that simple, since copyright law itself is based on the idea of taking away or limiting what a property owner can do with his or her own property, in order to give the creator of the work extra rights. But those rights that are left over, rights based on the fundamental right for a person to do anything they choose to do with their own property, are being rendered irrelevent and meaningless by DRM software.)

"One of the key problems is that the limitations and exceptions to copyright law are being ignored by business, which is imposing restrictive licenses on digital content," Suw Charman, executive director of the Open Rights Group, told ZDNet UK.

Charman said DRM restrictions could be particularly damaging for academic research.

The British Library also raised the issue of "orphaned works" -- copyrighted material that is locked up because nobody knows who owns the copyright. In many cases, that material exists on old film which is literally rotting away by the day. Movies from the early 20th century is going to be lost forever because nobody is legally permitted to copy it without the copyright holder's permission, but nobody knows who the copyright holder is.

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