Computer copyright proposals 'unfair'

COMPUTER lawyers have given a cool response to plans for new copyright laws to be put before the Department of Trade and Industry this week.

The proposals aimed at controlling the use of protected material on the Internet have been criticised as “unfair” and “unworkable”.

Plans for a “transmission right” to ensure copyright owners receive payment for the reproduction of their work are contained in proposals submitted on Tuesday.

They have been drawn up by a working party made up of legal experts from media and entertainment companies including the BBC and Polygram.

Internet material which is currently unprotected includes text, images and music transmissions.

The proposals suggest allowing the copyright owners to claim royalties.

One controversial suggestion is that the owners should be able to claim payment from the Internet operator if the transmitter cannot be traced.

Nick Lockett, a London-based barrister who specialises in computer cases, says: “It is unfair to blame the operator for something which the user does. It is like blaming BT for the contents of a telephone call.”

David Barrett, head of information technology and telecommunications at City firm Dibb Lupton Broomhead, says it would be impossible to trace those who breach the copyright.

Lockett suggests licensing instead of legislation, with a code of conduct for holders. Barrett warns that unenforcable legislation could bring the law into disrepute.

He says he prefers technical changes to make it harder to copy material.