On November 20, Copyright etc and Trade Marks (Offences and Enforcement) Act 2002 comes into force.
This will see the balance of power between copyright holders and consumers tilted significantly away from the latter. FAST, the Federation against Software Theft, a rival (and as such mostly inconsequential) to the Business Software Alliance, succinctly explains the sea-change in rules "which give the police – working with copyright owners and enforcement agencies – search warrants with seizure powers for organisations using illegal software, could force law-breakers out of business".
All PCs and 'technical equipment' can be removed from businesses if the police find evidence of illegal copying. Prior to November 20, Police could only seize PCs from traders and importers of copyright material.
Also insurance policies are likely to be rendered invalid if the PCs are seized. Without computers, business could collapse, FAST points out.
This is a Good Thing, according to Paul Brennan, general counsel at FAST: "This action reinforces everything for which FAST stands – and for us is the equivalent to a big stick with which to confront organisations that are flouting copyright law. It clearly demonstrates that using illegal software is a criminal issue, and an offence that will not be tolerated."
It also shows that copyright holders and their supporters will lean on the police to dispense summary punishment through judicial seizure. And if there weren't so many darn end-users, the copyright attack dogs would come snarling for us too.
Over to Robin Fry, intellectual property partner at city law firm and new FAST Legal Advisory Group (FLAG) member, Beachcroft Wansbroughs: "With the proliferation of CD-Rewriters, illegal copying has now moved from far Eastern factories to the home – and now to the office. Action against end-users will increasingly be the only way to break a widespread habit (our italics). Far from being acceptable, copyright theft damages business and jeopardises the jobs of many developers and creative individuals. Criminal sanctions against companies – and the directors personally – are really the only effective deterrent for what regrettably has become widespread disregard of the law."