The existing UK copyright law recognised that computer and video games were easily succeptable to damage, be it from magnetic or electrical damage, or young children scratching disks rendering them useless. As such, according to Section 50(A) of the 1988 Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, legal purchasers of computer games are explicitly permitted to make a backup copy of their purchase.

However, the corporate giants such as Sony are perfectly happy for you to go and spend another £40 on a replacement game that your child has just rendered useless by scratching the disk, so they ensure that their video games consoles cannot simply play backup disks. Their protection methods also prevent the software piracy that would in fairness be rife if they werent in place.

These protection methods prevent the consumers legal right to take a personal backup copy, but in order to exercise your rights, you could modify the games console that you have purchased and own to counteract any protection methods put in place by the manufacturers, therefore allowing you once again to make a personal backup copy of your purchased games.

The Copyright And Rights Regulations act (hereafter referred to as the CRRA) was introduced around 2003 and was a series of amendments to the UK’s copyright laws. The section of the law allowing consumers to make a personal backup copy has NOT been changed by the CRRA. You are still entitled by UK law to make a backup copy of any piece of software you buy legally. Where things start to get interesting, though, is in Section 296Z of the new law. Section 296 makes it an offence to do anything at all which is designed to circumvent any piece of copyright protection technology put in place by the manufacturers or distributors of any copyrighted work. In short what it means is that if a disc has some form of anti-copy protection, it is a criminal offence to either circumvent that protection yourself, or to give anyone else any device or piece of information which will enable them to do so. In other words, if you exercise your legally-enshrined right to make a backup of your legally-purchased game, you are automatically and necessarily breaking the law, with a maximum penalty of two years imprisonment.

The revision to the law is contradictory and a restriction in consumer rights, making a criminal out of a parent who is just fed up of having to put games in the bin sometimes just days old, because their young childen have scratched the game disk rendering it useless.

Why is this idea important?

The changes to the law were brought in simply to bring the UK copyright laws in line with the US and EU laws. Other western countries such as Australia and Canada have opted to side with the consumer rather than the giant corporations who often have more influence on Government than they should, and the rights of their citizens to make 1 backup copy is still in place.

These governments have placed the onus on the manufacturers to improve their own protection methods, ie if they really do not want to allow their customers to protect their investments, make it so they are impossible to backup, rather than try and restrict by law.

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