Copyright and copying


The views expressed in this article are purely the opinions of the author, Richard Murray, and should not be taken as truth, fact, or resembling anything whatsoever. So there.



12th May 2002


It has always been my understanding that, in British/European law, you - as a purchaser - had certain 'rights' which could not be revoked by some stupid licence condition, namely:

Some quotes from EN 391L0250: Basically, as I read it, this is being quite clear that you may not modify a program with the intention of passing around ripped off copies, but also on your behalf, program authors cannot get away with statements like that found inside Argo's !Voyager software, which states "Any reverse engineering, object code modifications or other such changes are illegal.". You'll find a lot of references to what it not legal, but very few to what IS legal.

In America, this is exacerbated twice. Firstly, we have UCITA which is essentially allowing the software companies to take your money and then punch you in the face, and then say "We'll punch you again, if and when we feel like it". In any other industry (consider used cars or double glazing) law suits abound in similar situations, but for some reason, people just expect software to be buggy just like they expect to be charged to fix the bugs. And consider this whole deal with licencing. In the UK and the US (but apparently not in Germany), when you buy software you are buying two things. You are buying a piece of plastic (the CD) and you are buying a licence allowing you to use the software, provided you accept lots of conditions. You have no bargaining power here. You can't argue the licence. You can only take it or leave it.

Next, the DMCA (or is it DCMA?). Basically some legislation that takes away all your abilities to do anything with the software under some crap excuse of prevention of electronic terrorism. It goes a lot further in that I run a risk if I try to forcibly hack into my own network from a remote location.

For UCITA, it simply beggars belief that people take it seriously. And I have said, and will maintain, that when UCITA becomes the law in whatever country I reside in, I will simply stop programming. Well, I won't, but I'll never release another product again, nor will I purchase anything. UCITA is evil. Look on Google for a selection of thoughts on the matter.

As for the DMCA (DCMA?), it shows the typical ass-backwardsness of the people making the rules in America. They have this misconception that "making it illegal" will make their computer terrorism problems go away. So, what, there's a law allowing kids to shoot each other at school? It was permitted to crash aircraft into skyscrapers in the middle of a city?
The solution is not to make hacking illegal. The solution is to shore up your defences. I am in full support of the people that write macro viral code for MS Outlook, like Melissa and The Love Bug. They are not criminals. Because one attack you can stand. When it happens the third or fourth time around, surely you should be asking yourself what the hell people are doing still using such insecure software? The criminals are not the people that make the viri. They are showing us how insecure the software really is. Yet we treat them as if they've done something really bad. WRONG! The criminals are the people with something to lose who fail to dump the broken software and use something decent. The biggest criminals of all are those who release new 'fixed' versions of the software that are just as susceptible.
Maybe it is totally valid to cause global chaos and hours of downtime, lost data, and estimates of millions in damage. Because this isn't the first time an email virus has bitten. I am beginning to think those that suffer do so deservedly. Everybody has an option. That doesn't mean to change your entire operating system - such drastic methods are simply not necessary. Most of the bitching comes from emotion. I feel, personally, emotion from people who really should have known better, who got caught out.

Did you hear about one of the UCITAish terms apparently inserted into FrontPage? It basically states you cannot use that software to disparage the company. So saying Outlook is an insecure crock would break your UCITA-powered licence if you have FrontPage2000. Luckily I write my HTML in a seven-year-old text editor, and anyway it (the text editor) was written by a bunch of Brits who would certainly have frowned on the lunacy of UCITA.


So you might be thinking... okay, I'm a Brit (living in France) and UCITA/DMCA is bogus in the EU. That is correct, but for how long? With all this terrorism nonsense, those in power in the EU are thinking of legislation like that being instigated in the US.


I'll leave you with a final thought. There's a storm coming and your defences may not be good enough. You don't fancy your house being flooded, so do you:

a, Build up the defences
b, Shout at the storm, and erect a sign saying "NO STORMS"

The wise man would make the defences better. So why do politicians seem to prefer the other option?


Disclaimer: I'm not a solicitor, I have not been trained as a solicitor. The comments and ideas within this article are personal opinion, not legal guidance.
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Copyright © 2004 Richard Murray