UK technology trains of thought...

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Copyfighting & Data Retention

In the last few hours, the EU will have voted on the implementation of Data Retention for telcos and ISPs across Europe. Apparently they are likely to stop short of covering e-mail, thanks to intervention by Green Party MEPs. This is expected to be covered in a future parlimentary amendment though.

The impact of this is that the ISPs and the Telcos will need to retain all data for 6 - 12 months. At a pretty high cost I expect, although there is an amendment on the table for national governments to fund it.

This is all happening to increase the intel available to security agencies, and I'm not fundementally opposed to this sort of thing with the proper controls in place, but they quite clearly are not. As the BBC pointed out some time ago, the music industry is also entitled to this information.

The reason this is possible is because the legislation applies to anything that falls under the list of ’serious’ criminal offences listed in the EU Arrest Warrant legislation. This includes file-sharing and copyright abuse. So, this means that if I have downloaded a single MP3 over the internet, the EU can analyse all my phone records (and email, in the future) for at least the last six months...

This is not the only example of lawmakers being driven by the RIAA / MPAA recently:
  • The DMCA in the US has had a lot of impact and was clearly driven by the industry. One interesting fact is that the recent Sony BMG root kit scandal, that potentially destroys your CD-ROM drive if you are trying to copy your own music; is ILLEGAL to remove under the DMCA. Rock, hard place anyone?
  • The French have also been suckered in. They are going to ban any software that is capable of playing multimedia and does not have DRM (digital rights management; i.e. extra software to stop you doing what you want with the content) built in. Even more amazingly, the French Department of Culture have said:
Friday November 18th, 2005, French Department of Culture. SNEP and SCPP have told Free Software authors: "You will be required to change your licenses." SACEM add: "You shall stop publishing free software," and warn they are ready "to sue free software authors who will keep on publishing source code" should the "VU/SACEM/BSA/FA Contents Department"[1] bill proposal pass in the Parliament.

This means that ALL free software will be illegal. FFS.

Of course we do have one victory under our belt, the EU Software Patents legislation. I am absolutely amazed that campaigners managed to get across the concepts under discussion to the MEPs and overwhelmingly stop the legislation. I am we will lose out in the long term as firms like Microsoft throw their weight into the counter-lobby.

I find it somewhat amazing how malleable governments appear to be to large industry. I understand that we are all capitalists (willingly, or not) - but will somebody please explain to the EU that there is a difference between fundementalist copyfighters and fundementalist terrorists?? I'm off to uninstall SoulSeek - can't be doing with Guatanomo Bay.

On a more serious note, there is a new group set up in the UK called the Open Rights Group - formed specifically (on PledgeBank interestingly) to fight these sort of initiatives. I'm sure they would appreciate contributions to their fund.


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