FAST warns government against allowing software copying

The Federation Against Software Theft has warned the government that there could be dangerous consequences of its proposals to widen private copying exemptions

The Federation Against Software Theft (FAST) has warned the government that plans to allow private copying under copyright law are failing to take into account the specific mechanics of the software industry.

The government is considering making an exception in copyright law around private copying to enable users to duplicate content that they have purchased legally to use it on another device, with music the clearest example as content is taken from a CD to an MP3 player.

But with software licenses usually tied to a specific machine or sold on a per-head basis the fear from FAST is that any change in the law could provide confusion about 'sharing' applications in the workplace.

“I fear the law of unintended consequences as, in my view, the draft on private copying is not clear. Law should be drafted in order to instil certainty, as businesses need certainty to invest. I do hope that it is quite unintended that software could be caught by the drafting of the exception. Eight words are all that is required to fix the problem," said Julian Heathcote Hobbins, FAST’s general counsel.

“Software raises very different considerations to content like music and ebooks. There is a backup right long established in law for the lawful acquirer. Neither, as provided under EU law, do concepts such as reverse engineering apply to content. As presently drafted, the exception would permit a licensee of software for use on one computer to make any number of copies for use on other computers. Any licence agreement to the contrary would be overridden," he added.

FAST is pushing for more clarity to be added the the 28B(1) draft to the Software Directive with it made clear that computer programmes are not included in the exceptions to private copying that are being proposed.

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