Sweeping Copyright Laws For UK: Mirroring The DMCA?

The controversial Digital Millennium Copyright Act in the US may soon have a counterpart in the United Kingdom; the UK Patent Office has just released a draft of proposed amendments to the UKis copyright law. The Patent Office has made these changes according to a European Union requirement that new laws must comply with the EUis Copyright Directive.

While much of the draft is merely bringing existing laws up to date with technological advances, the most contentious parts of the law have many up in arms. A recent ZDNet article states that the lawis startling similarity to the USis DMCA means it could be used in many of the same ways that the DMCA has been used. For example, the DMCA has been used to prevent researchers from legitimate discussion of anti-copying techniques and publishing their observations on their effectiveness. ZDNetis article says:

Significant parts of the law include new legal protection for digital watermarks, copy protection systems and other measures used to protect copyright material online. There are also new propopsals aimed at combating Internet piracy. But the most contentious part of the new rules is that which mirrors the DMCAis outlawing of devices intended to circumvent anti-copying technologies.


Under the EU proposal, member countries have an obligation to provide legal protection for technological measures--such as encryption--designed to prevent the infringement of copyright.

However, others are more concerned with the average useris end of the deal. Paul Mobbs, of the Free Range Activism Web site made this contribution to the Politechbot mailing list:

Re: recent discussions on "is this the UKis version of the DMCA", in my view it isnit. It hits ordinary users of information far harder than more specialist computer users. This is because computer software and databases are actually *exempted* from the terms of the directive (read the small print). But mainly because it seriously interferes with the traditional ifair dealingi provisions that restrict copyright over certain types or quantities of information. It also potentially affects academic and journalistic freedoms to quote and critically review information.

I think this actually has far more interesting civil liberties/passive surveillance issues, because of the proposals to permit monitoring of digital copyright over networks, and to make it potentially criminal to interfere with such monitoring (e.g., using a two-way firewall, anonymising/proxying your connection, etc.).

Mobbs has also provided a detailed review of the proposals at the Free Range Activism Web site. You can read the proposals themselves at the UK Patent Office.