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Double jeopardy, copyright and a fine old mess

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aj+ column

A postscript to last week's note about the acquittal of a 19-year-old in Norway for writing a computer application so he could view DVDs on his Linux machine.

Norwegian wigs have decided to appeal against the verdict. That excellent newsfeed The Register (motto 'Biting the hand that feeds IT') at www. theregister.co. uk, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) at www. eff. org, and the daily newsletter of that great monthly magazine Wired, atwww. wired. com/ news, have the details.

Meanwhile, some sections of the entertainment/software industry have decided that self-regulation and codes about copying material might be better than extending the 'mess created by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act', according to the EFF. You might say that copying other people's stuff is wrong, period.But it is never clear cut.What, for example, about the music CD you bought and copied to play in your car? That, apparently, is illegal under the US Act and will be under the EC version, although there is a move by two US senators to inject into the legislation some element of fair-use rights for digital media which consumers legally acquire.

On the other hand, the US Supreme court has just agreed Hollywood's move to extend the duration of copyright to 70 years after the author's death, protecting its back-catalogue of movies. Hollywood probably hadn't thought about it when it got its tame Congressmen to pass the omnium gatherum Millennium legislation, but hardware house Lexmark has threatened a maker of clone (and much cheaper) chipped toner cartridges under the Act - including having to pay truckloads to the men in wigs.

Happily the EC recently told printer manufacturers to remove chips from their cartridges on the grounds that they are anti-recycling devices. Doesn't affect you? Architects traditionally 'borrow' detailing and design from their fellows.

Under our forthcoming clone of the US copyright Act, that practice could turn out to be exceedingly expensive.

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