UK users of peer-to-peer (P2P) websites could soon find themselves running the same legal gauntlet as their US counterparts.
The European Union Copyright Directive (EUCD) comes into force today, making uploading to P2P sites such as Kazaa and Grokster illegal.
The EUCD, or Copyright and Related Rights Regulations 2003, amends the Copyright Designs and Patents Act of 1988 and is the EU's attempt to update copyright protection to the digital age and combat software piracy.
Indivuals who make a copy of a copyrighted DVD, CD or music file, whether for back-up or for use on another device such as an MP3 player, are committing a crime.
Even if this is for personal use they theoretically face up to two years in jail or an unlimited fine, and possible civil action from copyright holders.
It will also be illegal for anyone to break anti-copying technologies and publish their findings, as in the 'DVD Jon' case, in which Norwegian encryption cracker Jon Lech Johanson was prosecuted for distributing DVD encryption-cracking software.
The British Phonographic Industry (BPI), the UK equivalent of the litigious Recording Industry Association of America, has always said it would wait for the EUCD before deciding whether to take legal action against UK users of P2P sites. It is still deliberating.
Peter Jamieson, the BPI's executive chairman, said in a statement given to vnunet.com: "Once we have digested the implications of the revised copyright legislation and communicated this to our members we will consider the need for a wider awareness campaign and, as and when this is carried out, assess its impact and effectiveness before taking further steps."
But the EUCD has been severely criticised by civil liberties groups and lawyers for following too closely the controversial and much criticised 1998 US Digital Millennium Copyright Act and infringing human rights.
"Why shouldn't I be allowed to make a copy of a CD I have paid for so I can listen to it on my computer or put it on an MP3 player? This shows that the law can be an ass," said George Gardiner, technology lawyer and partner at law firm Stephenson Harwood.
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