back to article No, Minister. You CAN'T de-Kindle your eBooks!

The government has bungled proposed changes to UK copyright law by claiming the format of eBooks can be legally changed - for example, from the Amazon kindle format to a PDF. The changes were published yesterday as the last debris of the Hargreaves Review to wash up on the statute book. (The rest has either been implemented or …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And this is what happens when you outsource legislation to a third party. Our elected representatives are left tinkering around the edges, creating confusion, becuase they aren't permitted to craft a new law to replace the cock-up that is existing EU copyright law.

    1. mmiied

      tinkering?

      it looks like it is the tinkering round the edges that is the problem here

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: tinkering?

        No shit, sherlock.

      2. cortland

        Re: tinkering?

        They'll need RoHs compliant solder, tho.

  2. Cirdan
    Trollface

    Whose laws to use...

    Eh.

    Just use US parody and copyright law.

    You know The Mouse well be running the show anyway, right?

    ...Cirdan...

    (Trolling Cirdan is trolling.)

  3. Lusty Silver badge

    Unconstitutional

    I think you'll find that we don't have a constitution here and there are several places in our law which stop contract terms overriding general law. Employment law for instance overrides any jibber jabber an employer may add to a contract regardless how well written it may be.

    1. BristolBachelor Gold badge

      Re: Unconstitutional

      I wanted to comment on the phrase "The stipulation that contracts cannot be enforced is merely one example of creating legislation with two contradictory meanings.".

      I call bollocks on that phrase. If you sign a contract with me that says I can harvest your organs when I want, while you are still walking and talking, does that mean I can do it? NO. Other legislation says that I cannot enforce that claim in the contract. Where does the legislation have contradiction? Is there really legislation that says anything written down in a contract overrides all other laws?

      1. gerryg

        Re: Unconstitutional

        "Is there really legislation that says anything written down in a contract overrides all other laws?"

        It's actually the complete opposite: contract law is essentially common law, non-statute. Its structure has been sorted out through legal dispute over time.

        Legislation is used to trim the enforceability of a contract

        1. RegGuy1

          Re: Unconstitutional: gerryg

          Many thanks for the common law link. Wonderful!

        2. despun

          Re: Unconstitutional

          Maybe that's part of the problem. The EU isn't going to be attined to Common Law ststems as other than UK ( + Irelnd, Cyprus, ?Malta ) they use Civil Law

    2. gerryg

      Re: Unconstitutional

      I think you'll find you are making it up as you go along - so here's A Very Short Introduction to the British Constitution.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Unconstitutional

        If you dig even slightly deeper gerryg you'll see that our constitution is made up of all of our laws, common and statute, there is no one "constitution" and it's certainly not a document or even necessarily written down. You're right that we have one but it includes new laws so by definition anything we pass into law cannot be unconstitutional.

        1. gerryg

          Re: Unconstitutional

          @Anonymous Coward - While I'm not sure which point of mine you are riposting, if you dig even deeper still you'll find that all draft legislation is scrutinised for constitutional implications. So yes you're right, all statute law forms part of the constitution, but only in the sense that they're not making it up as they go along.

      2. cortland

        Re: Unconstitutional

        "As a constitution, it is one that has grown organically in response to changes..."

        I do recall compost heaps from St Piran's School garden.

      3. SDoradus

        Re: Unconstitutional

        You're not wrong in the sense that the UK is held to have a constitution. But the word is also used in the sense of a founding or 'basic' law which can not be arbitrarily changed by the legislature. That is not the case for the UK constitution.

        But it is not written down any one place, some of it is not written down at all, and all of it is subject to revision in the ordinary way by statute or legal interpretation. It shares these characteristics with some other realms, for example NZ where the (so-called) Bill of Rights Act cannot override statute. Furthermore, the entrenching provisions are not themselves entrenched.

        This is not the case for the US where originalism and strict constructionism are live doctrines. While the US (still) determines the interpretation of such IP laws, through multilateral treaties and otherwise, the impact on actual US citizens living within its borders is lessened by the constitutional protections which are much stronger than UK or EU law.

    3. FartingHippo
      Paris Hilton

      Re: Unconstitutional

      No constitution? Is that even constitutional?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Unconstitutional

        >No constitution? Is that even constitutional?

        I think that would properly be called de-constitutional....

    4. the spectacularly refined chap

      Re: Unconstitutional

      I think you'll find that we don't have a constitution here...

      Of course we do. The fact that it isn't a single document bound up and labelled "The Constitution" doesn't mean that it doesn't exist. Instead it is spread across myriad different acts and in determined part by historical practice and precedence. We've arguably had a constitution of some form going back at least as far as Magna Carta.

      Go into any law library and you'll find shelves full of books on British constitutional law - that's an awful lot of coverage for something that doesn't exist.

    5. JaitcH
      Happy

      Unconstitutional? No Britain will never have a Constitution

      The much vaunted US Constitution has been shredded in recent years but it still has utility as toilet paper.

      The Canadian Constitution, fought for by the late Pierre Trudeau, is alive, and well, and biting. Anyone observing what can happen if a country adopts a strong Constitution, will use Canada as a fine reason never to do it.

      Our Constitution is so strong our version of NSA is complaining they can't spy on Canadians - in or out of the country.

    6. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Unconstitutional

      My first thought as well, before reading the whole article... Unconstitutional? To be unconstitutional, you'd need to have a constitution first...

  4. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

    Pointless wrangling

    I would only buy an ebook if I knew for certain that I can strip it clean of DRM. No matter what the legislation says.

    If there were still any non-bent politicians surviving somewhere they'd have made all DRMs simply illegal for consumer markets. Remove the uncertainty, stimulate the business.

    However, it is not going to happen, so the IP laws will continue to be routinely broken and when you have to break one law your respect to the rest of them diminishes too...

    1. Tom Chiverton 1

      Re: Pointless wrangling

      "I would only buy an ebook if I knew for certain that I can strip it clean of DRM. No matter what the legislation says."

      This. I want my book to last longer than one company, tyvm. Hence a Kobo and a copy of WINE for Adobe's Digital Editions and some Python. Win.

      There was some fuss about Adobe forcing a quick-march upgrade on the publishers to a version that didn't WINE. VirtualBox would be required then I suppose.

      1. James 51 Silver badge

        Re: Pointless wrangling

        The whole point of that new version was that the python script wouldn't work any more but would also mean that every ereader ever released wouldn't be able to read the book either. They're going to dual run it for a while and I guess Adobe hopes manufactures include compatible programs in new readers. then at some point they'll force the switch over.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Pointless wrangling

        I've mentioned this before but its worth pointing to again.

        I think the best and easiest way to De-DRM ebooks is to use Calibre, which is available for Apple, Linux, and Windows, and use an unofficial add-in which is available in a set of tools maintained by several people and provided by Apprentice Alf.

        Other forums I frequent don't allow direct links to such things but if you search for Apprentice Alf's blog you should hit the right spot.

        Calibre is OK and can be found at http://calibre-ebook.com/

        No need for that nasty Adobe rubbish at all. The tools work with Kindle books too.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Alf DRM Removal

          The requiem tool no longer works with apple ebooks though. Sadly

          Unless anyone knows otherwise? The code is out there so perhaps it coukd be updated?

        2. This post has been deleted by its author

  5. Tromos

    Unacceptable

    I've owned a Kindle for several years now and have a sizeable e-book collection. More recently, I also acquired a Nook as it was dirt cheap and had an illuminated display. I will not accept restrictions on my ability to move books between these devices (and any others I might subsequently purchase), nor will I do business with any publisher that prosecutes anybody for doing this. If I end up with Project Gutenberg as the sole supplier of my reading material, so be it.

    1. The_Idiot

      Re: Unacceptable

      Lord (er, or Lady, as the case may be :-) ) Tromos

      May I, at the risk of opening the usual brushfire of 'oh, that's all cr*p and garbage because <insert reason-du-joure here>', suggest you look at the Independent Publishing market?

      Many Independent e-book Publishers have a rather more, um, reader-friendly attitude to DRM. I could cite at least one of my Publishers, who not only doesn't put DRM on their books, but who when you buy sends you the book in four different file formats (including PDF) at no extra cost. They even allow you to download it twice, in case you lose it! :-).

      I'd tell you who they are, but that might convict me of the Great Sin of Marketing - so I won't (blush). But it is, in my view both as an author and reader, a mark in their favour.

      1. jackofshadows Silver badge

        Re: Unacceptable

        There's several major publishers out there that don't allow DRM to be applied even by Amazon or Apple, thank you very much. They'd rather have a happy _repeat_ customer.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Unacceptable

      You seem to have misunderstood. You have not "bought" a book. You have licensed a copy.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Unacceptable

        More specifically, we have bought the license along with the copy. And that license should be transferable from format to format. After all, it's not the format that's enforced by the copyright but the content. Whether it's in a book or an ePub, the book's only as good as the words in it.

        Then again, no business likes a one-and-done...

      2. John Tserkezis

        Re: Unacceptable

        "You seem to have misunderstood. You have not "bought" a book. You have licensed a copy."

        Perhaps you have misunderstood. You can "buy" a book and have heavily limited rights, or you can "steal" a book and have all the rights in the world.

        Hmm, tough choice. While they're arguing over semantics, everyone else is just doing it anyway.

      3. This post has been deleted by its author

  6. RobHib

    The need to test copyright laws for real.

    Perhaps some country needs to test the copyright waters for real. After all, the copyright holders have more than had it all their own way for the last 128 years--since Berne.

  7. TitterYeNot

    What's good for the goose...

    Excellent news! I presume this means that I can now legally convert my film collection from Bluray and DVD disc format to ISO or MKV for personal use, and all wth the blessings of our kind lords and masters.

    No? Didn't think so somehow...

    </sarcasm>

    (Tagged for those with dodgy sarcasm detectors...)

    1. Ian 55

      Re: What's good for the goose...

      Yes, you can... but you may need to complain to the Secretary of State about the DRM if you can't break it.

      From the consumer FAQ:

      "Is this just about CDs, or can I also copy films, e-books etc?

      The exception will apply to any copies you have bought, other than computer programs. .. However, you should note that media, such as DVDs, can still be protected by technology which physically prevents copying.

      What if a DVD or other media is protected by copy protection technology?

      Media such as DVDs are often protected by anti-copying technology to guard against copyright piracy, and this is protected by law. Copyright owners will still be able to apply this protection. However, if copy

      protection is too restrictive, you may raise a complaint with the Secretary of State."

      If the DRM stops you doing the format shift you are allowed to do, clearly it is too restrictive.

    2. jonathanb Silver badge

      Re: What's good for the goose...

      It is now legal to rip your CDs into mp3 format, flac, alac or whatever and load them onto your phone or iPod, so why shouldn't you be able to rip DVDs and Blu Rays into mp4 format, mkv or whatever and put them on your iPad or some other device?

    3. Piro

      Re: What's good for the goose...

      Yes, but in reality you'd need to make a formal complaint to get a DRM-free copy.

      Has this ever happened? Will it ever happen?

      Someone should do it, and persist. You know if enough people did it, they'd bring out DRM-free copies for the UK market as a norm, simply because it would be cheaper to make one copy.

      But that would require a ridiculous amount of pressure.

  8. Primus Secundus Tertius Silver badge

    Publishers Special Pleading

    It is a grotesque piece of special pleading by publishers to claim it is unconstitutional to outlaw unreasonable terms in contracts. There are already many similar examples in other laws, designed to protect consumers.

    As to the legality of cracking DRM, the reasonable man would not object to cases pf personal use, whatever UK, EU, and US laws may say.

    Think again, Orlowski, especially about the traditional anti-authoritarian rights of a private Englishman.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Given the amount of practice they've had...

    you'd think they'd be able to produce legal code that's a bit less buggy by now.

    1. frank ly Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Given the amount of practice they've had...

      You'd be foolish not to accept and applaud these essential security updates.

      1. Richard 120

        Re: Given the amount of practice they've had...

        Ah you have a problem you see, it's built using a coding language that's already got bugs in it.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Coat

          Re: Given the amount of practice they've had...

          "Ah you have a problem you see, it's built using a coding language that's already got bugs in it."

          Not to mention being run by development teams that change every three or four years, hate and refuse to communicate with each other, and think they are God's gift despite holding their end users in absolute contempt.

          On the other hand it could be worse, project management of the whole thing being run by one technologically-illiterate asshat who insists the whole thing be built using LOLCODE or INTERCAL, and whose response to Helpdesk tickets is to execute the complainant with anti-aircraft artillery. I'm looking at you, North Korea. That's right, you.

    2. Ken Hagan Gold badge
      IT Angle

      Re: Given the amount of practice they've had...

      You'd think so, but actually the economics has gone the other way.

      When I write bad code, my paying customers suffer the bugs and whinge a lot and demand that I fix it at my expense or give them their money back.

      When lawyers write bad code, their paying customers have to suck it up, or pay yet more money for another lot of equally bad code which might (by chance) have bugs that suit them rather than antagonise them.

      Consequently, legal code appears to prefer no punctuation, long and rambling sentences running at times over several pages, and arcane vocabulary. The situation in IT, where the code has to cause the right thing to happen even when a dumb machine is reading (executing) it, strongly favours *lots* of structure (punctuation), short functions, meaningful labels for intermediates and even test cases with expected results where necessary both to ensure clarity of intent and correctness after subsequent modification.

      In short, I find it *very* hard to imagine what the legal system would look like if it was implemented according to the almost-infinitely-higher standards that are commonplace in IT. And I'm one of those who don't think IT is yet up to the still-higher standards of mainstream engineering.

      Words scarcely do justice to describing how totally fucked up beyond all belief the legal system is.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "in likelihood unconstitutional"

    I do wonder in what sense the statutory instrument itself is constitutional. I know the history of the thing goes back to HenVII, but in the wake of Will&Mary, was the statutory instrument still actually legal?

    1. Martin-73 Silver badge

      Re: "in likelihood unconstitutional"

      Statutory instruments are a nasty nasty idea. They're what allowed 2Jags Prescott to rubberstamp changes to the building regs that made it illegal for you to do your own electrical work in your own house.

      Which rules, fortunately, are largely ignored.

      1. M Gale

        Re: "in likelihood unconstitutional"

        They're what allowed 2Jags Prescott to rubberstamp changes to the building regs that made it illegal for you to do your own electrical work in your own house.

        The really amusing thing is that you can tack an 8 way extension with a sealed plug to the wall and stick it into the two-way already on the wall. Unsafe? Possibly. Messy as hell? Definitely. Legal? Absolutely.

        Do the exact same thing but you extend the ring into a new set of sockets and ixnay on the plug? Safer, sure. Neater? Definitely. Overheating? Well duh, 13 amp fused socket on a 30, 40 or more amp ring. Funnily enough, 13 is less than 30 and you have a fusebox with your consumer unit in case you end up dragging that much total current out of the ring by accident.

        Legal? Yeah, you're nicked, mate.

        Honestly, whilst I know that mains electricity is something to be treated with extreme respect, you'd think this was about messing with the gas mains. One will start a fire and electrocute you at worst. The other will detonate your entire house and send flaming fragments of it into properties all around the street. Your roof will probably land a couple of houses away. You'll probably land three, four, and five houses away in separate pieces. Oh and that's more of a normal-case scenario when gas goes wrong.

        The two are not the same, and that law desperately needs un-fucking, preferably just a repeal back to the way it was.

    2. Bob Wheeler
      FAIL

      Re: "in likelihood unconstitutional"

      /joke section

      I wonder if the any of the guys that wrote this was named Gordon? If so, there was asong about him – hint search for “Jilted John” circa 1978

      /joke section off

      Seriously, the use of “statutory instruments” is just a very lazy way of making law. There is no oversight or scrutiny before it hits the plebs.

      If they want to change a law, repeal the old law and introduce a new Act under Primary Legislation.

      /rant off

      Just as well these guys aren’t running the country, oh wait……

  11. Salts

    Funny thing is...

    Just yesterday I was interested in buying an ebook, however it was only available on Amazon, I looked into removing the DRM because my ereader uses the epub format, but it is a fuss, upshot was, got another book with no DRM.

    1. bed

      Re: Funny thing is...

      Surprisingly, there has been no mention of Calibre, yet.

    2. Martin
      Happy

      Re: Funny thing is...

      I have heard it said that once you set it up correctly, it's no fuss at all - it works transparently.

      I heard of a particular problem that someone had where they tried to buy a book from Google Play in ePub format, only to find that the book had somehow mislaid all the apostrophes and quote marks. So the person bought the book on Kindle (whose version of the book was fine), downloaded it to his PC, drag'n'dropped it into Calibre, uploaded it to his ePub reader and it was fine. (And he got his money back from Google Play, too.)

      I, of course, know no more details about how he did it, and I have no comment on the legality of it.

  12. Suricou Raven

    The DRM bit makes sense.

    So we've a situation where users have a legal right to do X, but doing X is only technologically possible by breaking DRM, which cannot be done legally - thus making their legal right impossible to exercise. Or, viewed from the other side, a provider of media cannot prevent their customers from doing certain things via contract, but can impose a DRM scheme that has the same effect via another means.

    Makes perfect sense to me. The US has had a similar situation for years with their DMCA exceptions. It's legally untidy, yes. But it makes sense.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The DRM bit makes sense.

      "So we've a situation where users have a legal right to do X, but doing X is only technologically possible by breaking DRM, which cannot be done legally"

      Merchant of Venice, mate.

      This shit has been going on for hundreds of years, and the vermin of Westminster have no intention of EVER doing the right thing, when doing the wrong thing will get them a free lunch, or somesuch bauble.

  13. James 51 Silver badge

    Someone should send a link to this article to Nigel Farage. It's another issue he could pick a few votes up on (Assuming he's anti-DRM/pro format shifting for consumers of course).

    "they may have been working on sheep quotas last year and might be working on building regulations next year. Ministers rotate too, for example we've had six copyright ministers in as many years."

    And we wonder why industries end up capturing the very organs of state that are supposed to regulate them.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      > this article to Nigel Farage.

      I thought it was ghost written by him.

  14. Tom 7 Silver badge

    You can create a parody of a Dan Brown book...

    recursion surely?

    1. Ian 55

      Re: You can create a parody of a Dan Brown book...

      His books are certainly a parody of good writing and Da Vinci Code could certainly be said to be a parody of Holy Blood, Holy Grail given how similar it is.

  15. Primus Secundus Tertius Silver badge

    Special pleading by publishers.

    It is grotesque special pleading by publishers to complain about limitations on the terms of their contracts. In many other areas of ordinary life there are similar limitations, to protect consumers.

    There is an English tradition of anti-authority behaviour, under which it is perfectly reasonable to crack DRM for personal use. Think again, Mr Orlowski.

  16. Graham Cobb

    Parody is handled fine elsewhere --- there may need to be a few cases to establish some principles, but no court is going to be fooled by scribbling in the book.

    As for ebooks -- DRM on ebooks is just stupid anyway. The market and volumes are tiny compared to things like movies, and the sort of people who read a lot are unlikely to heavily pirate. It is just costing them business. Unlike some other commenters, I don't remove DRM -- I will not pay money to any publisher (of any media, in any format) who only sell DRM-encumbered content. I just limit myself to purchasing books which are available DRM-free. I still have many more books in my bookreader than I can read in the foreseeable future!

  17. Radbruch1929

    > EU copyright law distinguishes between a right to make copies, covered in Article 5(2), and "communication to the public", aka the "making available" right covered in Article 5(3). [...]

    Thank you for this idea. I wonder however whether the act of removing the rights management and the production of the copy falls under Article 5(2) of the directive. As the right to make copies in Article 2 is a universally reserved right under the directive, the origin of the original copy (whether it was a copy (-> Articles 2, 5(2)) or a download (-> Articles 3, 5(3)) might not matter.

    Then Article 6(4) of the Directive has a provision for private copies (subsection 2). But regardless of whether an exemption might be possible at all, such an exemption would always require a fair compensation for the rights holder anyway (Article 5(2)(b)).

    > For example, you can create a parody of a Dan Brown book by scribbling on every other page. Artistically, that's a perfectly valid "parody", and there's nothing Dan Brown or his publisher could do to stop it.

    I wonder whether this example is going to meet the test criteria of a parody under the directive. The ECJ has yet to decide "Deckmyn en Vrijheidsfonds", which specifically asks whether a parody has to be original in its own right. Some continental jurisdictions (apparently Germany, Belgium) seem to apply this test.

  18. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge
    Headmaster

    Parody

    For example, you can create a parody of a Dan Brown book by scribbling on every other page. Artistically, that's a perfectly valid "parody", and there's nothing Dan Brown or his publisher could do to stop it.

    Brown and his publisher retain a right to redress infringements of copyright which claim to be legitimate by way of parody when they are not.

    Just saying something is parody does not automatically make it so and it would ultimately be for the court to decide whether it is or is not.

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: Parody

      The sort of Dan Brown parody suggested in the article wouldn't be purporting to add to the canon and wouldn't constrain what Mr Brown was able to do with his characters in the next real book. I don't see that it reduces his ability to make money from his creation or even de-values the existing books in the minds of true fans. His style has already been through the wringer of the critics and emerged in best-selling glory.

      In fact, parody almost certainly means "you've arrived", in the same way that everyone using hoover, google, biro and portaloo without little trademark symbols is just something that grown up brands have to deal with.

  19. Dan 55 Silver badge
    Stop

    Disagree, it's a 5(3) matter

    It's not a straight copy, it's making it available on another format that it wasn't previously available on.

    And in the unlikely event that someone ever gets taken to court over format shifting under the new law (I don't think anyone has under the current act either), that's what would be argued and that's what the judge would find because anything else would criminalise something which the whole country does anyway.

  20. spodula

    ...

    The Americans have been able to implement a pretty decent parody exception without too much argument. Also, we are are not the US, it is unlikely that lawyers (Or as we call them in this country, "Barristers/Solicitors"), will make huge chunks of change off it.

    Wonder what happened to the format shifting (For personal use) exception we were promised?

    Also, We have an "unwritten constitution" or as anyone who doesn't work in the government like to say, "we don't have a constitution." The EU has one tho, although i struggle to see how that would apply.

  21. Velv Silver badge
    Pirate

    Interesting stance by some people here expecting to be able to move their purchased ebook from one format to another.

    If you bought a good old fashioned dead tree book written in English, would you expect to be able to translate it into a dead tree version in French for free? I strongly suspect that would be in breach of copyright law.

    Don't get me wrong - it would make sense that if I buy the right to read the text of an author (which is really what copyright is about) then I should be able to transfer my right to that text between different media as long as I only have one copy. But that's not the way any law is currently written.

    1. Ian 55

      Translation

      It depends on why you do it. If it's to practice your French, fine. If it's to sell or give away, not fine.

      1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Re: Translation

        When at school I practised French by translating Asterix into French. Nobody nicked me for it.

        1. teebie

          Re: Translation

          > When at school I practised French by translating Asterix into French

          But...wasn't it like that already?

    2. Graham Cobb

      If you bought a good old fashioned dead tree book written in English, would you expect to be able to translate it into a dead tree version in French for free?

      Yes -- why not? Of course, I would expect to pay the translator, if I didn't do it myself, but why would I pay the author or publisher anything? If the translator offered their services for free (such as Google Translate) then the answer to your question is a resounding yes.

      Of course, if I buy a French translation of a book, then I would expect that some of my money goes to the translator and some to the author.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      > would you expect to be able to translate it into a dead tree version in French for free? I strongly suspect that would be in breach of copyright law.

      If it's for your own use then that would be fine. Copyright breach only applies if you try to distribute it to others.

      > Interesting stance by some people here expecting to be able to move their purchased ebook from one format to another.

      Your ebook reader or computer already does this, multple times.

      - It may arrive compressed - uncompressing makes a copy

      - It may be converted to an internal format for a generic display module, say GDI in windows

      - It is transferred to display memory for display, which is again another copy.

      The problem with copyright laws as they pertain to personal use is that in order to use the document, you technically *have* to copy it and probably multiple times. This is where DRM kinda comes in. Copying is not what the publishers are trying to prevent, it is distribution. What copying is and isn't distribution is the crux of the problem. All these strange little laws and exceptions are skirting round the problem without really addressing the technical problems with trying to do it in the first place.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        The crux of the problem being that the same copy intended for personal use can be passed on to a friend with no additional effort. So IOW, the only way to prevent piracy is to prevent copying, since the two come part and parcel and are impossible to separate. Prevent copying and readers get ticked off and won't buy, but allow piracy and publishers don't see the money angle and will rather let their collections rot.

        1. M Gale

          Prevent copying and readers get ticked off and won't buy, but allow piracy and publishers don't see the money angle and will rather let their collections rot.

          For some years now, you've been able to go out, get the paperback edition, lop the spine off with a guillotine and stack the whole lot atop the document reader on a cheapish flatbed scanner (the HP Officejet all-in-one series for instance). Total process probably an hour or so, and it's pretty much unmanned. You just tell it where to store the jpegs and let it get on with it. So, about as hard as ripping your average DVD or Bluray, and takes about as long. True, you still have a bunch of pages with no spine afterwards, but if you're looking to distribute your copied warez far and wide, you won't care about that, will you?

          I just figured I'd let various publishers know that. You know, in case they thought that eBooks are going to kill the industry like videotape and audio cassettes totally fucked up the movie and music industries.

        2. Ian 55

          Allowing copying while preventing piracy

          But preventing copying Does Not Work. Everyone knows that, much that some of them would prefer that it does. But who gained from trying to stop it on Blu-ray? Pirates. Who gains from trying to stop it on Kindle-format ebooks. It's not the authors or publishers.

          So what you want is some common sense. My favourite example of that is from the publishers of an indie game who went 'yes, it's been pirated, but we've sold over a million copies and made more than ten times our development costs':

          "It has been over a year since we even thought about piracy. With sales as good as above we cannot really see this as an issue worth more than two lines in this post, so screw it."

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Re: Allowing copying while preventing piracy

            But what if you're just starting out, trying to scrape buy, and need every honest buck you can get in a dishonest world? Being blase may seem like a move toward loyalty, but in the end, does it really pay the bills? There seem to be concrete examples at both ends of the spectrum (as the developer of World of Goo, for example).

    4. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

      Does that skull icon represent the death of the Strawman you created and destroyed in your argument?

      "If you bought a good old fashioned dead tree book written in English, would you expect to be able to translate it into a dead tree version in French for free?"

      If you want to make a proper comparison - consider whether your dead tree copy stops you from reading it if you move it from one bookshelf to another or if you change the dust-cover?

    5. heyrick Silver badge

      Weird strawman argument

      "If you bought a good old fashioned dead tree book written in English, would you expect to be able to translate it into a dead tree version in French for free?" - a book, translated into another language, is not the same thing. Derivative, perhaps, but not identical.

      Converting format is a technical thing. What you end up with is supposed to be the same. It's like with video - you record something on your phone and then you can make it an MKV, an MP4, an AVI, etc etc but the end result should be a copy of what was recorded. Translating an ebook is like getting some people to re-enact the video and recording that.

      Or to put it a little differently - it's more like taking a book, tearing the cover off, gluing a new cover on it, then placing it on a bookshelf in a different room. The location and outside have changed. What's inside is still the same.

    6. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      "If you bought a good old fashioned dead tree book written in English, would you expect to be able to translate it into a dead tree version in French for free?"

      If you were French, it is hard to see how you could stop yourself doing just that. It wouldn't violate the author's (or the translator's) copyright unless you happened to render exactly the same translation, and they'd have trouble proving that in court.

      By the same token, reading a book out aloud doesn't violate the copyright on the publisher's audio-book version, unless you have an audience that is wider than your immediate family. (I'm assuming the law doesn't prevent parents from reading bedtime stories. Perhaps that is naive of me.) Playing sheet music doesn't violate the copyright on someone else's CD. I could go on. Format shifting is an inevitable part of the personal use of copyrighted material.

    7. Adam 1 Silver badge

      Bad analogy. It is more like the book is locked to your particular brand of reading glasses. The point is that a customer should retain the right to read that book in the future even if their glasses manufacturer goes bust or simply because I now prefer another brand.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Titles are for Toffs, RIP Tony Benn

    The legislation is a self-parody.

  23. Kevin Johnston

    Copyright

    You keep using that word....I don't think it means what you think it means

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There is no such thing as 'EU Law'

    There is no such thing as 'EU Law'. The EU makes directives for it's member governments to implement with local laws. It is quite common for countries to bend or ignore parts of these. The law that actually applies is the local legislation so it is quite impossible for it to be contradictory.

    Also I don't see it as a bungle to try to allow format shifting. It is a completely artificial concept to try and make people pay more than once for the same thing especially when companies claim that they are only licencing the data to you, not selling it. They can't have their cake and eat it too.

    1. localzuk

      Re: There is no such thing as 'EU Law'

      If a country fails to enact a directive, they can be taken to court and fined for it.

      So, the outcome of this is that you're simply arguing semantics. Directive vs Law.

    2. Radbruch1929

      Re: There is no such thing as 'EU Law'

      > There is no such thing as 'EU Law'.

      Oh but there is, it is a "regulation". Copyright is just one of those areas that the EU can not regulate directly but where it has to issue a "directive" the member states are not supposed to run afoul of.

  25. Tom 35 Silver badge

    Sounds fine to me

    "The government has bungled proposed changes to UK copyright law by claiming the format of eBooks can be legally changed - for example, from the Amazon kindle format to a PDF."

    Good. As it should be.

    Your idea of contract law seems to be that any company can opt-out of any law by just including a shrink wrap license or an "I agree" check box.

  26. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Meh

    News at 11

    Government ministers don't know their arse from their elbow.

    1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: News at 11

      Wow! Two downvotes. I didn't know that El Reg was read by the Daves

  27. Archivist

    Greed leads to shot in foot

    All producers have a right to recompense for their work, authors and publishers are no exception. However it seems the greed of the publishers has got in the way of common sense. When I buy a conventional book I can lend it to friends, and when it's done the rounds it ends up in the Oxfam shop for it's next life.

    Try doing that with an e-book. Instead, they have put DRM of a pathetic level to stop me from lending or borrowing.

    The result: It's easier to steal a torrent. The zip file can often contain hundreds of other books.

    This is much the same as the DRM applied to other consumer entertainment. It's just there to piss off the punters but too weak to prevent financially motivated piracy. What's the point?

  28. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    I'll do what I wish with items I purchase

    Well, personally, I will always prefer DRM-free, and absolutely will not buy anything where I cannot remove the DRM. Luckily most DRM systems are easy to crack. I will do as I wish with items I have purchased and will not have bureaucrats and big businesses strip away my personal use and fair use rights.

  29. Frankee Llonnygog

    The eBook-selling model is wrong

    What follows excludes reference, technical books and so on, applies to the mainstream consumer publishing, and is all IMHO of course ...

    Publishers are trying to force their paper business models onto a digital market and that's not sustainable. Why buy an eBook? Physical books are for keeping. eBooks are just for reading. A Spotify for books is technically feasible but the publishers won't allow it.

    Currently publishers force libraries to buy multiple copies of an eBook if they want to lend to more than one borrower at a time. And they force them to restock the eBook when it 'wears out'. That's why libraries have such limited stocks of eBooks, which never include the more obscure titles.

    Since libraries can already manage to pay per-use fees to publishers for paper books, it will be immediately obvious that they could easily do the same for eBooks. And, since digital distribution is so much more feasible for niche titles, such a system could easily extend to the most obscure and out-of-print.

    Ideally governments would take the lead on this but if not, there's a whole new lucrative monopoly business out there for some visionary

  30. JaitcH
    FAIL

    The government has bungled so many things ...

    such as the famous Osborne U-turns, building two incompatible aircraft carriers, etc., etc., yet another makes little difference.

    Roll on the election.

  31. JaitcH
    FAIL

    Paper books might be in trouble, but e-books?

    The paper book market, hard or soft cover, might be in trouble but the e-book business is doing fine.

    Jobs tried price-fixing the market and the US 'justice' system quickly knocked him down, witnessed by the number of book companies who signed settlements with US government. The big stiff was wrong again.

    Ever since MS started 'renting; the software you bought, more and more vendors got the impression they could do this for all manner of things. Apple does it with cell handsets.

    As others have stated, when I pay money to receive a 'good', regardless of what anyone or anything thing says, as far as I am concerned that 'good' is my property. Why doesn't MS demand the return of all the millions of floppies and CD's it has 'rented' out?

    Likewise with e-books, what is the end difference if I read a 'Kindle' book in it's original format or use one of those format changers to adapt the 'good' in to a format convenient for me.

    In Canada, the rent-an-ebook scheme run by many libraries is so convenient and 'green'. Using my library card on the other side of the world I can download/reserve thousands of titles. If my work schedule prevents me from finishing reading, a simple pass through software converts the format and another library user can read it.

    Of course, in the UK, libraries are being shut down as Cameron's cut and slash policy takes hold, but titles could be offered in many formats without harming the author, or the greedy publisher.

  32. Dave Bell

    MEGO moments

    The Statutory Instrument needs to be read by somebody with legal training and knowledge of UK copyright law, essentially a Barrister.

    It's a diff file for the Act.

    I know I don't understand how some words are used, and they will also depend on other statutes and court decisions.

  33. cortland

    Bottom line

    http://www.bartleby.com/73/1002.html

  34. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    Statutory Instruments. The Dark Lord's tool of choice.

    How quickly they forget the ways of Lord Mandelscum.

  35. This post has been deleted by its author

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