Thursday, May 19, 2005

Sweden: Threat Prohibition Copy Protection Meager Trade Off for Users

The heat in the digital copyright debate in Sweden is growing and Justice Minister Thomas Bodström seems to add some fuel to the fire. While proposed legislation would make the downloading of copyrighted content illegal, Bodström now threatens to make copy-protection mechanisms on CDs illegal. Bodström is looking for a balance between copyrightholders and users, saying on Swedish television:
"When the copyright is strengthened, it is extra important that this doesn't reduce the options to copy legal material for private use, through the copyright owners "locking" material with copy blocking." "The industry must ensure that the option to copy for private use is not hindered by technical means."
Bodström remarks seem to echo article 6(4) of the European Copyright Directive, which requires Member States to ensure that rightholders provide consumers the possibility to benefit from some copyright exemptions when copy protection measures are used. That is, if rightholders don't do that voluntarily in the first place. Interestingly enough private use is one of the exemptions that does not have to be safeguarded, but Member States may intervene none the less if rightholders fail to accommodate it. Apparently Bodström is threatening to choose for this option.

The record industry seems to feel the "heath". Magnus Mårtensson, a lawyer at the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), says:
"We totally agree with Bodström." "The whole point is that you should technically be able to do the copying you're allowed to do. Two years ago this was more of an issue, but now there is only one record label in Sweden which still copy protects its CDs."
Question is if this kind of trade-off between prohibiting downloading and prohibiting copy protection will benefit users in the end. The prohibition of copy protection on CDs would mean the recognition of established users interests (private use): "the copying you're allowed to do". Prohibition of downloading would limit users interests they can currently enjoy. That seems like a meager deal wrapped in much fireworks. Cold fire that does not hurt the record industry, but may burn users.
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