A Real Copyright Problem In The UK: The Difficulty Of Archiving Important Websites

from the fair-use-is-important dept

While UK politicians are arguing over a ridiculous and unnecessary change to copyright law as part of the Digital Economy Bill, it appears there's a much bigger problem with UK copyright law that isn't getting very much attention at all. Slashdot points us to the news that due to the way copyright law currently works in the UK, archiving websites without permission is illegal. Yes, even for the British Library and other institutions who are designated by law to keep a copy of every printed publication. But when it comes to the web, the Library needs to get permission from every website that it wishes to archive. Obviously, that greatly limits the archival activity that the Library can be involved in -- and, as a result, the public suffers greatly. This is a clear case where fair use should cover the issues, but current law does not adequately handle this. Making fair use work better should be a priority -- but instead we have politicians trying to prop up Hollywood's business model by pushing copyright law in the other direction.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 8th, 2010 @ 2:35am

    In the UK, it's not even legal to copy music from a CD onto an iPod.

    Stack the Digital Economy Bill on top of that, and we're back in the dark ages.

     

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  2.  
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    Crosbie Fitch (profile), Mar 8th, 2010 @ 3:14am

    Meta comment

    Mike, I think it's time you wrote an article describing those few cases in which copyright's reproduction monopoly is so socially beneficial that it warrants the suspension of the public's liberty to make copies.

    I can't think of any such cases, which is why I'm a copyright abolitionist.

    However, assuming you remain in support of copyright, I'm intrigued to know what it is that maintains your support for it.

     

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  3.  
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    Richard (profile), Mar 8th, 2010 @ 3:19am

    Re:

    In the UK it probably isn't technically legal to view a webpage!

    Time to realise that copyright is simply incompatible with modern technology and abandon it.

     

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  4.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Mar 8th, 2010 @ 3:54am

    Re: Meta comment

    Mike, I think it's time you wrote an article describing those few cases in which copyright's reproduction monopoly is so socially beneficial that it warrants the suspension of the public's liberty to make copies.

    I can't think of any such cases, which is why I'm a copyright abolitionist.

    However, assuming you remain in support of copyright, I'm intrigued to know what it is that maintains your support for it.


    I'm a copyright agnostic. I'm in favor of "promoting the progress," but I prefer an evidence-based plan for doing so. So while I have not seen any evidence to date that copyright does, in fact, promote the progress, I am trying to keep an open mind that someone could one day present some.

     

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  5.  
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    Griff (profile), Mar 8th, 2010 @ 4:45am

    Do takedowns apply to archived websites ?

    Suppose I archive content which is subsequently the subject of a takedown notice. Is the archive copy subject to the takedown notices too ?

    Whose job is it to know where else the site may be archived ?
    - I can't be expected to know who archived my site.
    - The takedown issuer can't know for sure.
    And although when there is just one archiver (the British Library) it might be easy, who says there couldn't be many ?

    Is it appropriate to preserve a libellous publication for posterity when the courts have decreed that it should be unpublished ?
    Is there a legal distinction between "archived so you could go and look at it in the library" and "archived so you can find it on the web" ?

    Come to that, does a takedown of a website imply that the Google cache has to be wiped too ?

    This seems like a minefield.
    Can college law students choose this area as a major these days ? Seems like a growth area to me...

     

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  6.  
    icon
    Crosbie Fitch (profile), Mar 8th, 2010 @ 4:56am

    Re: Re: Meta comment

    I guess you still perceive quite a bit of stigma attaching to copyright abolitionism then. Strangely more than attaches to those justifying million dollar fines, disconnection, infringement upon accusation, censorship, etc.

    As for 'promote the progress', I've already pointed out that that Constitutional aspiration doesn't apply to copyright, but to writers' and inventors' exclusive right to their writings and designs - a natural right that I wholeheartedly agree should be secured.

    Anyway, if any legislator was going to grant monopolies in literary works to the Stationer's Guild then they'd hardly justify it on the basis that it would enrich the press in exchange for enabling the state to suppress sedition. One could only expect a pretext such as 'for the Encouragement of Learning'.

    ACTA also has a noble pretext of preserving life though suppression of harmful counterfeits.

    The fact that monopolies (+market/channel control) are lucrative to the larger market players (and the state lobbied by them) is obvious - and provides ample motivation for 'protective' legislation.

    What is not obvious is how so many people can readily believe the legislation to be socially beneficial - or even that it may one day be demonstrated to be so.

    I am skeptical that anyone can have written and understood as much about copyright as you have and still entertain the possibility that all the social harm may yet be not only counterbalanced, but greatly outweighed by evidence yet to materialise.

    One day (very soon) copyright abolitionism will not be regarded as the heliocentric ideology of a lunatic fringe. I look forward to your epiphany. ;-)

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    Michael, Mar 8th, 2010 @ 5:13am

    Re: Re:

    Ok, I read the article and the linked article, and dug down a bit further because this was pretty interesting.

    I'm no laywer, but enabling offline web pages in IE appears to be illegal unless you have permission from the creators of the web pages you visit.

     

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  8.  
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    Richard (profile), Mar 8th, 2010 @ 6:03am

    Re: Re: Re: Meta comment

    I had my doubts about abolitionism - I wondered about my own motivations - but in the end the factor that swung me was the enormous harm that copyright and patents actually do to those who are supposed to benefit from them. I see so many stories of people who become bitter because they perceive that their "rights" have been violated. The fact is that intellectual property (with the sole exception of trademarks - and then only when used in the public interest) feeds a very negative streak in the human psyche. Copyrights and patents seem to have the same kind of effect on people as the ring did on Gollum.... me precious...

    They might not want their "rights" taken away - but it would be in their own best interest - because it would set them free.

     

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  9.  
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    JerryAtrick (profile), Mar 8th, 2010 @ 8:35am

    is it there yet?

    What are the legalities regarding the movie picture association trying to convince the FCC to allow them to release first run movies directly to the consumer instead of releasing the material to theaters? Is that even legal?

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    Bengie, Mar 8th, 2010 @ 9:11am

    Copyright

    Just the act of viewing a web page causes all routers along the way to make temporary copies which is illegal. Not to mention that you seeing the webpage causes a memory to be stored which is an analog un-DRM'd copy of the page.

    The human brain should also be considered a computer and all Copyright laws should apply to memory storage of people the same as my desktop.

    If the law is infeasible, then it should be abolished.

     

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  11.  
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    Derek Bredensteiner (profile), Mar 8th, 2010 @ 1:16pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Meta comment

    Personally I find the arguments for trademarks incredibly valid, and it's this alone that keeps me from jumping over to the abolitionist camp. Not because I believe keeping trademarks around and abolishing copyright are mutually exclusive concepts, but because of the vague similarities ("intellectual property" of sorts, just with different purpose and specificity). The fact that there is validity to one leads me to believe there may be some value in the other.

    I believe Mike's stance is due to a fear (rational fear) of being grouped together with the straw-men he so eagerly points out.

     

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  12.  
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    Crosbie Fitch (profile), Mar 8th, 2010 @ 1:44pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Meta comment

    Derek, trademark concerns authorship (identity of producer). Copyright does not. Authorship for literary works is covered by moral rights.

    See a recent comment of mine here: http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20100201/0028137983.shtml#c1574

     

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  13.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Mar 8th, 2010 @ 3:09pm

    Re: Re: Re: Meta comment

    I guess you still perceive quite a bit of stigma attaching to copyright abolitionism then.

    No, no stigma.

    I thought I was clear. My position is that I want whatever is best for progress. Why totally block off a route to progress if someone can show that it will work?

    I'm skeptical that anyone can, but why block that off entirely?

     

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  14.  
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    Cody Jackson (profile), Mar 8th, 2010 @ 8:31pm

    IP laws should be changed to "opt-in"

    Prior to the revised copyright law in the 1970s, copyright was an opt-in option for creators. They could decide whether to take the time to copyright their works or simply release them as-is.

    Personally, I think copyright, and possibly other IP laws, should be changed back to that format. Fair use would be the intended, default action; only by spending the time and money to get the legal protection would someone be able "deny" fair-use.

     

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  15.  
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    Crosbie Fitch (profile), Mar 9th, 2010 @ 12:35am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Meta comment

    There is the ethical issue of whether an individual's liberty should be suspended for commercial interests in the first place.

    To leave copyright as a historical fait accompli, and then attempt to justify that it should not be abolished or 'blocked off' just in case evidence may one day materialise that demonstrates it to be more socially beneficial (conducive to 'progress') than its absence, is not a particularly sound position. It would be akin to having an 'agnostic' position on slavery, that in theory, if slaves were well treated to encourage enthusiasm, evidence may yet materialise to demonstrate that slavery was more socially beneficial than employment alone. Could one therefore be against the abolition of slavery on the off chance that it might one day prove the better to advance progress?

    Your position is that of a utilitarian, albeit one yet to be convinced at copyright's social utility - patiently waiting.

    A natural rights libertarian would not hesitate. You do not suspend the individual's liberty on the off chance a 300 year experiment could one day demonstrate it to be better exploited by industry. Even putting the ethical issues aside, we don't have the alternate universe (in which monopolies in literary works were never granted) to compare what three centuries of free cultural intercourse would have produced. And this gives rise to complacent acceptance of copyright - people don't see what it's prevented, what they've not had, and so recognise no loss. They see only the culture they have had, and so assume this could only have been achieved with copyright. It's very similar to patent. People assume that because patent law arrived with the industrial revolution that it must therefore have been patents that enabled and facilitated the industrial revolution. Au contraire, monopolies are parasites that arise precisely because there is progress to be harnessed, creative energy to be siphoned. They don't give rise to it.

     

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  16.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Mar 9th, 2010 @ 2:25am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Meta comment

    Your position is that of a utilitarian

    Indeed. I am not a libertarian.

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    chrisbryon, May 10th, 2010 @ 3:36am

    In the UK it probably isn't technically legal to view a webpage............

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    Chris Bryon, May 10th, 2010 @ 3:37am

    I can't think of any such cases, which is why I'm a copyright abolitionist.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    Chanelnel, May 15th, 2010 @ 10:56pm

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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