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< Contents ERCIM News No. 58, July 2004


News about legal information relating to Information Technology from European directives, and pan-European legal requirements and regulations.

New Copyright Legislation in the UK

The Copyright and Related Rights Regulations 2003 and the Copyright (Visually Impaired Persons ) Act 2002 came into force on 31 October 2003. This followed a long consultation process which generated a huge response from the copyright industry and users alike.

The new regulations introduce a monopoly right for copyright owners of 'communicating a work to the public', which includes broadcasting and any transmission of a copyright work by electronic means. Posting copyright material on a website is now clearly an infringement unless the owner of the copyright has given permission for the posting.

The use of a work will only be fair dealing providing it is for a non-commercial purpose, eg research or private study, and providing that it is not directly or indirectly for commercial purposes. In fact librarians and archivists, through whom copies of works are requested, must be satisfied that they are for non-commercial research or study.

The visually impaired are able to have full access rights to make an accessible copy of a work providing it is for their own personal use.

The new rules make it clear that making a temporary copy which is transient or incidental, eg within a digital network, that has no independent economic significance, will not be an act of infringement. However, important new rights have been introduced to prevent the use of products and devices which circumvent technical protective measures (TPMs), such as encryption. New criminal offences for dealing in such devices or products have been introduced which permit the police to obtain search warrants and forfeiture orders in the course of investigating these crimes. The Regulations also provide a further right against persons knowingly removing or altering rights of management information (RMI) when they are communicated to the public in digital form.

Whilst it has always been possible under common law to seek an injunction against service providers who knowingly infringe copyright, the new regulations now give the courts statutory powers to grant injunctions in these circumstances.

Working Hours in the UK

A recent labour force survey found that around 4 million white-collar workers in the UK work in excess of 48 hours per week, and that 16% of all those surveyed worked more than 60 hours per week. This is a rise of 4% since the year 2000. Employers argue that working more than the statutory limit of 48 hours a week should be a matter of individual choice on the part of workers, but official figures from the Trades Union Congress suggest that two thirds of those working more than 48 hours per week would like to work fewer hours.

The UK is the only European Member State that allows its workers to opt out of the 48 hour limit on the average working week. The EU will begin a review of the UK opt-out shortly.

Internet Crime

The National High-Tech Crime Unit in the UK have successfully brought a case of fraudulent theft against six men for the largest identity theft racket to be uncovered in the UK. The men are alleged to have used internet property auction sites and credit reference agency databases to steal the identities of people with good credit ratings who have recently died, to secure loans, cheque books, credit cards, passports and driving licences. With their ill-gotten gains they bought houses, high performance cars and expensive jewellery. Detectives were able to trace the gang through an IP address.

by Heather Weaver, CCLRC
Heather Weaver regrets that she is unable to reply personally to emails or telephone calls seeking legal advice.