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Law Prevents British Websites From Being Archived 107

Lanxon writes "The law that allows the US Internet Archive to collect and preserve websites does not apply to British archivists. In fact, experts from the Archive and many other archivist institutions argue that the only way the millions of Britain's websites could be legally archived is if British law itself was amended, reports Wired in an investigation published today. Currently, archivists have to seek permission from webmasters of every single site before they are able to take snapshots and retain data."
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Law Prevents British Websites From Being Archived

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  • Scope (Score:4, Insightful)

    by goldaryn ( 834427 ) on Friday March 05, 2010 @08:08PM (#31377224) Homepage
    (No, I didn't read the article) Surely this restriction would only apply to British "archivists"? What if you are caching this page from an American server? Or Sweden? ;-) I don't know how Google's cache works, but I imagine it must be national for speed reasons Does that mean they are infringing UK law?
    • Re:Scope (Score:4, Interesting)

      by JumpDrive ( 1437895 ) on Friday March 05, 2010 @08:21PM (#31377312)
      (No, I didn't read the article)
      I wouldn't worry about it, politicians don't read the technical details of the laws they pass either.
      Think of all those poor Brits who are going to be sued or imprisoned because they have a browser cache.
      • Maybe Britain should ban Microsoft from selling products with Internet Explorer because it facilitates piracy...
      • by popo ( 107611 )

        Who cares *where* it's archived anyway. British law shouldn't pertain to an archive based in any other nation of the world, so does it matter anyway?

      • Browser caches are permitted under the EU Copyright Directive.

      • Immigration law firm Cheshire [] Looking Immigration solicitors in Chester (Cheshire)? Salam and Co. Solicitors is one of the most renowned Immigration & Visa law firms in Chester with experienced best immigration & visa lawyers in Cheshire. We are located at: Allendale, Townfield Lane, CHESTER, and CHESHIRE, CH1 6NJ
    • Well, if I were an archivist in Britain, I’d just run a proxy in the US. And then only “archive that US proxy”. ;))
      There definitely is a way to make it legal.

      On the other hand, of course the concept of copyright is completely absurd, and must be taken out of law. People don’t need compensation for their already released works. They have to ask for compensation when releasing them the first time. Or not. But not bitch later.

      • by beh ( 4759 ) *

        Sure, these kinds of tricks always work so well...

        It wasn't torture, we just blindfolded him... Oh - and occasionally, out of pure care for the prisoner, gave him a splash of water while he was lying down there blindfolded... It was just due to budgetary constraints, that we felt unable to first untie him, take off his blindfold, and sit him at a table with the glass of water in front of him to drink at his own leisure...
        There - waterboarding isn't torture, it's perfectly legal - it's just giving someone

    • Didn't we just see an article about this a week ago? Oh, yeah, we did [].
    • by u38cg ( 607297 )
      Strictly, if you as a Brit went after an American archiving a British website, it would be judged under British law anyway (rather like Corel v. Bridgeman was). However, I am not sure that the law isn't actually more or less the same and the British Library is just being a bit of a pussy on this one. I particularly don't see why they don't just start archiving and hold it out of public view for, say, a hundred years.
      • by beh ( 4759 ) *

        Well, it may be that because they are a public institution they want to keep everything above board... ...even if you thought, our laws were wrong, that wouldn't mean it would reflect well on you to, say, murder someone and keep quiet about it for 100 years hoping that the law would be changed in the meantime...

        Also, you might want to think about that the British Library started archiving the Internet anyway, keeping it out of public view is one thing - doing it without ever making budged audits cause probl

        • .even if you thought, our laws were wrong, that wouldn't mean it would reflect well on you to, say, murder someone and keep quiet about it for 100 years hoping that the law would be changed in the meantime...

          I'm pretty sure there's a corollary to Godwin's Law about comparing copyright infringement to physical violence.

    • What if you are caching this page from an American server? Or Sweden? ;-)

      Then prepare to be invaded, have your government crushed and replaced by a corrupt kleptocracy and all your civil rights replaced with those of second-class serfs. Not as if you'd notice any significant change.

      Oh, we'd have to sprinkle a few tons of depleted-uranium dust around the place too. That'll be nice.

  • Seriously, who makes these kinds of laws. Maybe there is some kind of byzantine reasoning regarding British legalities but if you put something on a publicly accessible webpage good luck enforcing who can have that content! Car analagy, your vin is in plain view, but if you pass a law that people cannot write down a vin unless you own the vehicle... good luck with that.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      good luck enforcing who can have that content!

      There's a considerable difference between allowing people to download and view content and allowing them to put it up in a publicly available archive. As British law reads (No, IANAL, but unlike most Slashdotters, I RTFA before posting.) you have to get permission for each and every site you archive this way, making any British archive strictly opt in. It would quite literally take an act of Parliament to change this.

      • While it might take an act of Parliament to change that law, the law seems to be akin to mandating that the wind must travel west to east, only.

        The Internet is a meta-national repository. Hell, we can't even get people to respect robots.txt..... so if somebody wants to snapshot you, they'll do it. It is the very nature of the web that this can be done, should be done, or can be laughably avoided: user choice. If they want to put it in an archive, there's little to prevent it. Worse, a challenge not to do so

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Homburg ( 213427 )

        It would quite literally take an act of Parliament to change this.

        As TFA says, it wouldn't take an act of Parliament - the 2003 Legal Deposit Libraries act gives the government the power to issue regulations concerning the archiving of non-print media.

    • Funny you should mention that, back in the 70's and 80's the police used to tell us that recording Registration Numbers of cars was illegal.

    • British copyright law does predate the web. The basic principles predate electronic communication. You can't really blame them for failing to predict that there would be a vast freely available store of information and the means to archive it all.
    • by mdwh2 ( 535323 )

      So I guess it's okay for me to distribute Internet Explorer, and also distribute Linux in violation of the GPL? I mean, I find it on a public website, obviously copyright doesn't apply, right?

      In most countries, including the US, putting something on the web doesn't make it public domain - this is a surprisingly common myth. It would make sense to allow an exception for search and archive purposes (subject to obeying the robots.txt file - i.e., still allowin opt-out), but your argument is nonsense.

  • Currently, archivists have to seek permission from webmasters of every single site before they are able to take snapshots and retain data.

    That seems stupid as everyone can do it for themselves, but not everyone will, so you then end up with a problem of accessing information when a website is gone.

    For me it seems more important is the use. All free-access websites are by definition used to convey information and to anyone who is interested. Therefore dissemination of that information by means of an ar

    • Addition:

      Such copying of course falls under copyright law so in theory you can warn people off (muddied a bit in that the program files read in from old tapes/disks are in fact still under copyright! So you can claim copyright on your HTML, layout and perhaps the collection as a whole).

      Just to make it clear: By publishing a free access website, in effect you are giving a licence to copy. However, how broad this is isn't clear. That's what the licence could be for. Perhaps by default some sort of (to be d

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by kimvette ( 919543 )

      A stance more like the BSD licence (do what you want with it as long as you give credit) than the GPL licence (lots of restrictions on redistribution).

      There is NOT a lot of restrictions with the GPL license; in fact it is quite simple. If you want to distribute a program using GPL code or derived GPL code, you release the component (or derivative) as GPL, including source. That is not a lot of restrictions. All it does is ensure that people share and share alike, something most people learn by kindergarten

      • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Umm if you include one GPL library, you have to GPL the whole she-bang. The other X% of code that you wrote must now become GPL*. Good luck selling your software now that you have to release the code. That is what I would call a serious restriction.

        *For example see where Microsoft just got burned by this.

        • Anything that is linked to it, not items which use the library in other ways (such as tcp/ip, etc.). In those cases it becomes "mere aggregation." There is always a LEGAL way around the GPL when you really, absolutely must make closed source software and rely on GPL.

          Otherwise, commercial software for Linux couldn't exist, period.

    • by Homburg ( 213427 )

      That seems stupid as everyone can do it for themselves

      I don't think that's true. I would have thought that making a copy of a website, for anything other than transient use in the course of normal access to the site, would require permission of the copyright holder, even if you don't make the copy available to anyone else (much like keeping recording of TV and the radio for longer than is required for time-shifting purposes is copyright infringement, too; actually, I'm not even sure if time-shifting is explicitly legal under UK law).

  • Google FTW (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cosm ( 1072588 ) <> on Friday March 05, 2010 @08:21PM (#31377306)
    In case it gets slashdotted, heres the cached [] version of the Legal Deposit Libraries Act 2003
    • by cosm ( 1072588 )
      For you AntiRTA types, the Legal Deposit Libraries Act 2003 is the specific document that 'legitimizes' this form of dumbassery.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Homburg ( 213427 )

        No, it's the regular copyright law that legitimizes the dumbassery. The Legal Deposit Libraries Act provides a partial relief from this, in that it exempts deposit libraries from aspects of copyright law in copying online material if they are doing so for the purposes of archiving materials covered by the act. The problem is that, at the moment, websites are not specifically covered by the act, which gives the government the power to set up regulations covering non-print media, without specifying any partic

    • by MichaelSmith ( 789609 ) on Friday March 05, 2010 @08:54PM (#31377472) Homepage Journal

      Google is so going to gaol.

    • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

      by nanoakron ( 234907 )

      Just read it. Very good. Completely applicable and even specifically mentions works on the internet.

      Non-story. /thread.

      • How the hell is this a troll?

        I'm AGREEING with the parent post.

        The Act specifically mentions works on the internet and says they can be archived.

        'Redundant' or 'Overrated' maybe.

        'Troll'? WTF?

  • by mjperson ( 160131 ) <> on Friday March 05, 2010 @08:37PM (#31377386)

    From the article:

    "The team currently has to contact the copyright holder of every website it wants to archive and this process has just a 24 percent response rate."

    Actually, I'd say they have almost a 100% response rate. They ask the copyright holder, "May I please have a copy of your content?" and in most cases, they receive a response within 500 milliseconds saying, "Sure! Here it is!"

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 05, 2010 @09:07PM (#31377542)

      let's not assume that permitting someone to view a copy somehow grants them license to retain, redistribute, or otherwise archive that copy. These are very different legal concepts.

      • I am a fan of opt in. I think perhaps changing robots.txt may be easier than changing any countries laws. I would love for all my insightful comments to be stored forever and for free too.


        • by cdrguru ( 88047 )

          The problem is with the level of intelligence on the Internet today you will find someone that posted some incredibly lame comment when they are 10 years old. Then, 20 years later a prospective employer finds this, ignores the context (and the age when it was posted) and drops the resume in the trash.

          Some things are meaningful to archive. Others are, well, stupid. Today, we focus mostly on the stupid and ignore the things that would be good to archive.

    • Actually, I'd say they have almost a 100% response rate. They ask the copyright holder, "May I please have a copy of your content?" and in most cases, they receive a response within 500 milliseconds saying, "Sure! Here it is!"

      But then to store the content, that's another copy, not the same as the bits transmitted over the wire. There may be other copies made in the process of making that copy, which may or may not count. Copyright is completely and irretrievably broken where computers and the web are conc

  • by HalAtWork ( 926717 ) on Friday March 05, 2010 @08:40PM (#31377406)
    So the "Save Page As..." command in the File menu is illegal in Britain?
    • by biryokumaru ( 822262 ) * <> on Friday March 05, 2010 @08:51PM (#31377462)
      Only if you save it under httpd/html.
    • by cosm ( 1072588 )
      I imagine page saves via the File Menu will be going down with IE being pooped on by the EU on the daily.
    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by Hurricane78 ( 562437 )

      God... people are DUMB...

      How do you, and those who made that “law” think that page gets onto your screen?

      By storing an copying it! In your network chip’s cache. In your CPU’s cache. In your RAM. On your hard disk (browser cache!). In your graphics RAM. On your screen. In your brain. And in ever place that you talk to, about it.

      Information that can not be copied, can not be proven to exist (to anyone outside of those already holding it). Simple as that.
      Why do people such a hard time,

      • Oops. Sorry, I missed the typos even in the preview.
        Ok, I’ll go to bed! ;)

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        God... people are DUMB...

        Sure. Some can't even see the difference between cache and archive.

        • An archive is a cache with no expiry time. Now who's dumb ?

  • by unity100 ( 970058 ) on Friday March 05, 2010 @08:47PM (#31377434) Homepage Journal

    just the laws and motions they have put in motion in the last month are appalling enough. leaving aside what has been happening in the last years. i guess a british citizen's freedoms in britain reached the level that is comparable with a moroccan in morocco. it really feels like a horror movie. albeit, real.

    • Oh piss off.

      Funnily enough people from other sovereign states don't react well to being blanket judged by (I'm gonna take a likely stab here) an American. You go fix your problems and leave us to fix ours.

      In the scope of unexpected law consequences
      is this even surprising? That if you were going to take a copy of someone else's copyrighted material and redistribute it you need the holder's permission? Yes, the internet works like this, but it's the only thing that does, and compared with the speed of legal c

      • im not an american. do not give knee jerk responses. EVEN if i was an american, this wouldnt change anything, since a fact is a fact, regardless of who says it.

    • British law defines all Caucasians as "racist" and, as such, have no rights but the right to be punished!
      • To quote you from one of your previous postings, "There's a saying, better to be thought of as stupid than open your mouth and confirm it.".

        There's no such thing as "British law". There's English law, Scots law, and Northern Ireland law. Fail.

        • SO .

          there is no such thing as british law. there's english law, scots law, northern ireland law, and what changes ? semantics.

          the main core of the 'union' that is there is england. if the disparage in between england's and other member's laws increase, it will either lead to the adoption of same laws in the other members or dissolution of the union at its ultimate end.

          • Actually there are some quite significant differences between the legal systems. Scots law draws more on Roman law, English law more on Norman law. English courts judge you guilty or not guilty, Scots courts guilty, not guilty, or not proven. A spoken word is legally binding in Scotland, not so in England.

            Much, much more than merely semantics.

            The different legal systems across the UK have always been evolving and changing and I don't think this in itself will change the relationships between the countries o

            • the main issue here is, england is the dominating economic and political entity there.

              • Speaking as a UK citizen who has lived in England and Scotland I can tell you the legal systems are different and Scots law doesn't bow to English law. English politics doesn't influence Scots law to any great extent to my understanding.

                A good example was the Lockerbie bomber trial where the Libyan suspect was tried under Scots law and not English law, and there was general agreement that the legal system and judges came up with a different result than may have been found in the English system.

                I am not a la

                • irrelevant.

                  as said, it is a union in which the most dominant member economically, militarily, and politically is great britain. it doesnt matter how much autonomy is allowed for other union members. if matters take a certain route in regard to internet in britain, and gets settled there, it wont take too long before the perpetrators and private interests in britain to try to force same things in the other members, either over the union, or through those members' own parliaments.

                  they wont let scotland, n ire

    • by Ma8thew ( 861741 )
      Every fucking thread about the UK someone posts something like the parent. Of course, they never cite any examples but they are still modded to +5 Insightful. Please, tell me how my freedoms are restricted! Unless of course your only evidence for this is other Slashdot posts.
      • if you havent been following the news coming up in slashdot about britain in the last 2 years, noone can take the time to give you a briefing. just search for UK or britain or something in search engine and youll get your fix yourself.

        • by Ma8thew ( 861741 )
          Like I say, Slashdot posts. Yes we have some dodgy terrorism legislation, but I don't think any laws we have are any worse than those found in other European countries and the 'land of the free'.
          • again, you need a lot of catching up to do. just search slashdot for britain. im turkish, and as a turkish citizen i have more rights in turkey now than a british citizen has in britain. considering turkey has been behind europe in most respects in these matters, it makes your situation much more appalling.

  • by martin-boundary ( 547041 ) on Friday March 05, 2010 @09:07PM (#31377534)
    The summary is utterly nonsensical. The US Internet Archive referred to in the summary is US-based, and the laws that apply to it are US laws, not British laws. That means there's no issue for the US IA.

    In fact, TFA talks about a different organization, the UK Internet Archive, which is presumably based in the UK and under UK jurisdiction. The British laws affect the UK IA, not the US IA.

  • Oversimplified (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Unless the UK has no fair use provision at all, this article blows the issue out of proportion. First, it would appear to apply only to UK 'archivists' of UK sites. More to the point, it's really not about the archiving, it's about what they do with the copies. Your browser keeps an archived copy- are you telling me that's infringement in the UK, or that somehow it's infringement when you direct your browser to store it some non-default location for an indefinite period? No, the infringement comes when

    • UK copyright law actually gives next to no right to fair use. It's something the music industry of all people want changed (it only takes one person with a mix tape to be prosecuted by a small label and all labels suffer an extreme PR hit).

      Technically programs recorded on the TV have to be deleted once watched (and within 48 hours of recording) too. A lot of what people assume is fair use rights here is actually a case of rights holders and/or courts not wanting to waste time prosecuting trivial offences
    • by mdwh2 ( 535323 )

      Unless the UK has no fair use provision at all

      We have no fair use provision, that's correct. Copying a CD you bought to your mp3 player is copyright infringement, according to the law.

  • ... is obsolete; the problem of oppressive social hierarchies is nothing compared to the threat of rampant archivists!

    Anarchivists Unite!
  • let's kill all the lawyers"
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      This reminds me of an episode of Simpsons, where someone asks Homer something like "do you imagine what would be a world without lawyers?", and he starts imagine a green, sunny field, with everyone singing, dancing and very happy. :-)
  • Robots.txt (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 05, 2010 @10:01PM (#31377872)

    Why not update robots.txt to flag that permission is granted to archive the site?

  • by grapeape ( 137008 ) < minus author> on Friday March 05, 2010 @10:18PM (#31377958) Homepage

    Does anyone else worry that in the current age with technology constantly butting heads with rights holders that in the future historians will likely find large gaps of history simply missing? I have a feeling things will end up very similar to the hollywood and the bbc in the 60's and 70's when vast amounts of movies and television episodes were destroyed or wiped simply to clear space in the vaults. Take Dr Who for instance, most of the William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton seasons are gone forever. In the states nearly all of the Jack Parr episodes of the Tonight Show are gone as well.

    • by DaveGod ( 703167 )

      But how much of it will be knowledge worth keeping?

      • I imagine that those who will be studying our culture and society in the future will be quite thankful if we manage to save as much of it as possible, down to the most inane Twitter post. In terms of culture and society, the shift from mass print to electronic may prove to be as important as the one from writing to mass print and people will probably want to examine it in the future. As grandparent mentions, the BBC and Hollywood wiped stuff that we now think is important. We can't say for sure what will be
    • So nothing has really changed with technology then.

      Current historians would absolutatly love it if we had better coverage of many periods of human history - much of it (even the written records) has been lost, blown up, burnt, flooded, lost in the deserts, built over, eroded, probably even eaten, ... over the years.

      Historians are able to get lots of information from the little that remains - piecing together partial fragments, cross-references, stories, even boxes in attics can hold wealth of information.

  • hehe... (Score:1, Flamebait)

    I get to say it again...

    Fuck Britain!

  • This sounds like something that could be used for selective enforcement against someone the authorities dislike, for some reason, but aren't able to lay charges for any real crimes.
  • Currently, archivists have to seek permission from webmasters of every single site before they are able to take snapshots and retain data. My UK websites have been archived for years. Nobody asked me.
  • My website's a .com, it was registered here in the UK but has since been transferred to a company in the US, and is currently hosted by an international company with servers just about everywhere. So is it a UK website, or a US one, or ...?
  • ...that didn't like having its web sites cached...awkward, when people used cached content to say "But that isn't what you were saying back...".

    I cannot seem to remember the name of that news corporation...but as I recall, it has a presence in England, America, and Australia.

I am more bored than you could ever possibly be. Go back to work.