New EU Legislation

This week Brendan Hanrahan requested that I give my two cents on an article that the Guardian published recently regarding new EU Legislation that would make downloading files or making copies of files, even if you are completely entitled to do so, illegal.The main thrust of the legislation is to prohibiting public access to devices that can be used for playing legitimately acquired but copy protected CD’s or DVD’s on your PC.

Let me just take a minute to explain how the current system works; you may notice that certain CD’s in the shops will now not play on PC’s and as such they contain appropriate warning messages stating this on the packaging.The system works by providing random spikes of data on the CD which a Hi-Fi would ignore but which would render the CD unreadable to the internal CD drive of a computer.Personally I believe that this was a stupid idea from the onset; if I’m sat working on a train with my laptop and I want to listen to a CD that I purchased using a set of headphones and the inbuilt CD player and it wouldn’t let me then I’d feel rather annoyed to say the least.This legislation goes one step further and states that any kind of technology that can read these disks on a PC or aid you in the process of making copies will be illegal.Quite how far this goes the article is not specific on; I can’t see CD writers becoming items sought for over the black market but I suppose that computer CD players that can read these copyrighted CD’s may well go that way.

The second part of the legislation states that file sharers could face an unlimited fine or a jail term of two years; what a load of rubbish!One of the great things about the Internet is its’ ability to be completely anonymous; if I go out and share my entire music collection to the world then no one knows who I am and even if they did track me down then you get bet that pretty quickly the file swappers would develop ways to mask their tracks so that they couldn’t be found.In my personal opinion it is all talk designed to try and scare people off and something that will probably never be executed; can you imagine if the government had to let a mugger out of prison early to make room for little Johnny who shared is Metallica collection online?I’m going to use a quite disgusting example so that we can relate how difficult it is to track someone down over the Internet by stating that a large number of paedophiles use the Internet as it is quite anonymous; rather than tracking down little Johnny who shares music with his mates over the Internet, they should be focusing their attention to arresting these lower forms of life, surely?

Maybe I’m just missing the point and chances are that a lot of you will agree with this new legislation but I don’t see it as being at all enforceable or at all logical; I can see them being able to stop the sale of computer CD players that can read copyrighted music but I can’t envisage them stopping file sharing over an anonymous Internet in a hurry and if they do propagate such a situation where they eliminate one but not the other then that’s going to open a whole new can of worms.

Let’s say I go out and buy a CD from HMV but I can’t play it on my computer as it’s copy protected then I’m going to be forced to download it off the Internet if I want to play it on my laptop for when I’m working on this proverbial train that I keep mentioning.In this situation, I’ve gone out and spent a tenner on a CD that is useless to me and since I’ve had to break the law anyway by downloading the songs that I legitimately paid for then what was the point in me buying the CD in the first instance?I’m quite happy to go out and spend my hard earned money on bands that I like but if the music industry won’t allow me to listen to my album in the way of my choosing then what choice to I have than to download it?One could argue that I should still go out and buy the CD anyway to support a band that I like but I’m not going to spend money just to add my crisp £10 note onto a pile of millions stuffed into EMI’s coffers on a useless CD that I can’t use just for the feel good factor.

I grew up in a period when most stereos had twin tape decks and for as long as I can remember, piracy has been rife but the secret to winning this battle lies in common sense not ill thought out legislation that will end up punishing the honest music lover but perversely rewarding the pirate.

About the Author - Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges who supply a wide range of printer cartridges at the UK’s lowest prices.