Thursday, 20 January 2011

NGLIS Event - E-Copyright, the Digital Economy Act & Cloud Computing

Copyright doesn’t sound like the most entertaining of topics, but at the NGLIS event on Tuesday evening Charles Oppenheim managed to raise several gales of laughter with his very amusing anecdotes.  Apparently getting it wrong can be very funny – to others hearing about it afterwards, if not to the people involved at the time!
After an introduction for those of us in the audience with only the sketchiest understanding of the Copyright Act, Charles highlighted some key effects that the internet and social media are creating in the copyright arena.  One example is regarding multiple authorship, which basically states that if more than one person has contributed to a work but you can’t distinguish who has authored which parts, then permission must be gained from all the contributors in order to copy the work.  On the internet, of course, instead of two or three authors, contributors to a wiki or blog could be numbered in the dozens or even more.  Being unable to track down even just one of these would mean it would be illegal to copy or reuse the material.
Digital Economy Act
Charles described some worrying implications of the Digital Economy Act.  This stipulates that ISP’s can turn off or restrict internet access after an IP address has been found to be up or down-loading copyright material three times.  This was aimed at film, music or software piracy and illegal peer-to-peer filesharing by people at home.  However, hotels, airports, universities, public libraries and anywhere else offering wi-fi services to their patrons and customers could also be caught out by the Act.  Charles reported that some councils have already stated that they may withdraw public access to the internet at their public libraries if this Act is implemented in its current form.
Cloud Computing
Charles focused on the Data Protection implications of cloud computing, namely that it is the original data collector who remains responsible for the security of the data, not any subcontractor (eg a SAAS or cloud computing provider such as Google Docs or Rackspace).  Since many of these providers’ Terms of Business explicitly state they accept no responsibility for data security, and are often reluctant to negotiate contract terms, use of these services can be in breach of the DP Act.  Another aspect to consider is the location of the provider’s servers, and also of their partner organisations’ servers, since much personal data cannot be exported to countries without suitable DP legislation (such as the USA).  Using cloud providers with servers there to store personal data would also be illegal.
Overall it was a very instructive and also entertaining evening, at the function room of the very pleasant (if hard to find) Iron Duke pub close to New Bond Street.
- Nicola Franklin 

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