UK computer industry representatives are hoping this week to put their case to the government against its proposals to tighten and update copyright laws. They are opposing clauses 18 and 63 of the Copyright, Design and Patents Bill which would allo users to rent software packages starting 12 months after their release. The bill is currently passing through the House of Commons. But the British Computer Society, the British Microcomputer Federation – whose members include Ashton-Tate, Microsoft, Computer Associates – the software industry’s anti-piracy watchdog FAST and the British Equipment Trade Association are still hoping to convince the Department of Trade and Industry that the bill has potentially disastrous consequences for the software industry. British Computer Society copyright committee secretary Simon Elsom said the new copyright provisions threaten to cut across existing copyright arrangements by implying that users have the right to copy software without a licence: When you run a program you are making a copy of it because you are storing part of it inside the machine. So you need a licence to run a program because running it involves copying, he claimed. Under the new law users will have only to pay a rental fee to use software that has been on release for over a year. The government proposals seem to have strained relations between the British Micro Federation – which blames the British Computer Society for lobbying the government to get the copyright bill to encompass the software industry in the first place. But Elsom denied that the society played a part in the drafting of the offending clauses: The inclusion of rental rights was a surprise to us. The government has included software licensing on the back of its licence provisions for sound recordings and films, he said.
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