UK Government Arses Up Again

Oh, this one is a doozy. Thanks to PC Zone magazine (Jan 2004) for bringing this one to my attention.

Previous to The Copyright And Related Rights Regulations 2003 Act (henceforth called “The New Law”) coming into effect, the 1998 Copyright, Designs and Patents Act (Section 50(A)) (henceforth called “The Old Law” stated specifically that legal purchasers of computer games are explicitly allowed to make backup copies. Essentially, you purchase the right to execute the code – not to own a copy of the disc. And so therefore making a backup is just ensuring your continued right to run the code in case the CD gets damaged.

As anyone who’s ended up with a knackered disc has found out, it’s either a nightmare to get a replacement (software no longer published, no details of how to do so) or the publisher charges some stupid fee for the privilege. I have myself had to create a copy of NOLF disc 1 and use a third party “patch” to allow me to run the copy. The original CD cracked in the centre and became unreadable.

Now, The New Law (a blatant rip-off of the United States’ Digital Millenium Copyright Act designed to bring us in line with European legislation) states specifically that it is illegal to copy, or provide information to a third party to enable them to copy, any protected media. So that’s a big slap on the wrist for me as I’ve copied NOLF, even though I own it. It’s also up to 2 years in jail for whoever provided the patch I used to enable me to run the copy. And the host of the site where I got the instructions on how to configure Nero to make the copy.

Ah. But. Here it gets even more interesting. The Old Law still stands. I (and you) as a consumer still have the legal right to copy games as long as they’re legally purchased and only for backup purposes. The only thing stopping you is the fact that you can no longer copy protected media legally. Which means that anyone who puts copy protection on a CD, and therefore stopping you making the copy within the bounds of the law, is breaching your legal rights as a consumer.

Any lottery winners out there fancy taking Electronic Arts to court to force them to remove all the copy protection from their CDs?

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