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July 09, 2006

Craig Murray and Crown Copyright

The Craig Murray story continues to become ever more surreal.

Here is Craig’s explanation.

Here is an expansion at BlairWatch. (sorry, a mirror.)

Here’s an offshore mirror which presumably won’t come under whatever injunction the government gets.

The weirdness comes from the law under which the Government is claiming that the supporting documentation cannot be published. That they are Crown Copyright and therefore cannot be disseminated.

Which is very surreal indeed. For all laws, Bills, Acts of Parliament and Statutory Instruments are published under that very same Crown Copyright. Here, for example, is the Crown Copyright notice attatched to an SI:

Statutory Instruments printed from this website are printed under the superintendence and authority of the Controller of HMSO being the Queen's Printer of Acts of Parliament.

The legislation contained on this web site is subject to Crown Copyright protection. It may be reproduced free of charge provided that it is reproduced accurately and that the source and copyright status of the material is made evident to users.

It should be noted that the right to reproduce the text of Statutory Instruments does not extend to the Queen's Printer imprints which should be removed from any copies of the Statutory Instrument which are issued or made available to the public. This includes reproduction of the Statutory Instrument on the Internet and on intranet sites. The Royal Arms may be reproduced only where they are an integral part of the original document.

No, I’m not a lawyer, but the assumption there seems to me to be that documents under Crown Copyright may be reproduced free of charge, providing it is the full and complete document and that the copyright is made clear.

It’s also true that there are two very well known documents (books to be more precise) which are covered by Crown Copyright. The King James Bible and The Book of Common Prayer. I’ve actually had a licence to reproduce those on the internet before now. You simply ask Cambridge University Press very nicely and they give you one, royalty free of course.

But more importantly, there is no attempt made to impose that copyright on sites in the USA. As Project Gutenberg shows. Here’s the King James. ( Amazingly, The Book of Common Prayer doesn’t seem to be in there.)

So I’m wondering what the Government is actually trying to do. Crown Copyright appears to contain at least the implication that reproduction, as long as it is complete and with the copyright notice, is just fine and dandy and also that, for sites based in the USA, no attempt is made even to insist upon that. For if there were, presumably, Project Gutenberg would have been getting writs for years.

As I say, all rather surreal. Or is the Government simply thrashing about blindly for whatever it can find to stop the documents being read by anyone?

Update: A little more rootling around for information on Crown Copyright.

Full information is here.

Something very interesting. Yes, Crown Copyright does mean that a licence is required for republication. However, if a department thinks there has been a breach of this they may take the initial steps but before any prosecution is undertaken:

Copyright Infringements

5.1 If copyright material is re-used without permission of the copyright owner, it constitutes a copyright infringement. Under UK law, copyright infringement is a criminal offence and legal proceedings can be taken.

5 2 With regard to Crown copyright, the Controller, as owner of the copyright, would need to be a party to any legal proceedings relating to any infringement of Crown copyright. Any department may take initial steps in investigating an alleged infringement. However the Controller’s Information Policy Team should be notified at the earliest opportunity so that the various options can be considered.

Which, I think, means that the FCO does not actually own the copyright to the documents (the Crown does) and while they are indeed entitled to withold publication rights they cannot sue on their own. The must get the permission and agreement of the Controller to do that. An interesting question to ask Carol Tullo tomorrow perhaps?

Queen’s Printer/Queen’s Printer for Scotland

Odd, the site doesn’t give a phone number. Shouldn’t be that hard to find though.

Now, given that the FCO can indeed withold republication rights, does this mean that Craig Murray is screwed?

Err, no, at least, not as far as I can see. This is with specific reference to materials which may indeed be Crown Copyright but which are released under the Freedom of Information Act:

2. Information listed in Publication Schemes, which can be disclosed under FOI, will be subject to copyright protection. The supply of documents under FOI does not give the person who receives the information an automatic right to re-use the documents without obtaining the consent of the copyright holder. Permission to re-use copyright information is generally granted in the form of a licence.

Chapter III of The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA 88) describes circumstances when copyright material can be reproduced without infringing copyright. These are generally referred to as the fair dealing provisions. The Copyright and Related Rights Regulations 2003 (SI 2003 No. 2498) amended certain provisions of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. One of the most significant changes was to specify that the fair dealing provisions for research only applies where the copying is for a non-commercial purpose. This guidance reflects these changes. Under fair dealing, copyright material can be reproduced for the purposes of:

  • Research for non-commercial purposes and private study; and
  • For criticism, review and news reporting.

That full SI is here. It’s important to note that it does not have to be both non-commercial and for criticism, review and news reporting. Rather, one or the other is sufficient. The relevant clause:

Amendment of provisions relating to criticism, review and news reporting
10. - (1) Section 30 shall be amended as follows -



    (2) For paragraph 2(1) of Schedule 2 there shall be substituted -

    " 2. - (1) Fair dealing with a performance or recording for the purpose of criticism or review, of that or another performance or recording, or of a work, does not infringe any of the rights conferred by Part 2 provided that the performance or recording has been made available to the public.

    (1A) Fair dealing with a performance or recording for the purpose of reporting current events does not infringe any of the rights conferred by Part 2.".

No, I’m not a lawyer, but here’s how I read it. As long as the work has been released to the public (and not by
an unauthorised act) then republication for the purposes of criticism, review or news reporting does not, in fact, breach the rights of the copyright owners.

It’s very difficult to see that what Craig is trying to do is anything other than "criticism, review or news reporting" so whether he’s trying to do it for gain or not has no relevance.

Subject to legal advice (which I am of course not qualified to give) I’d say that the FCO are making things up. Blowin’ it out their ass to be precise.



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Tracked on Jul 9, 2006 12:27:22 PM


I suspect that you are wrong; copyrights are horribly tricy things, but the usual legal result tends to be that if someone is determined to act the ass, the law will help them do so. This is how the US government censored Frank Snepp's book "Decent Interval" and they have much better freedom of information laws than we do.

Posted by: dsquared | Jul 9, 2006 1:36:16 PM

The question of copyright vs FoI hasn't yet met a court in this country. But to an extent it is irrelevant, because anybody can obtain from the relevant public body a copy of material available under the Act simply by requesting it. It's not as convenient as simply downloading the documents from the web -- in particular, most government departments make sure they take the full permitted 28 days before replying -- but there's no legal barrier to any individual getting hold the information themselves. "Murder In Samarkand" could perfectly well include a cut-out-and-mail-in FoI request to the Foreign Office which readers could send off to get their very own copy of the documents, with no question of breach of copyright.

That said, on Craig Murray's page (linked to above) he says that some of the documents were obtained under the Data Protection Act; that only requires disclosure to the data subject (Mr Murray, in this case) and so any such documents couldn't be obtained in this way. I haven't looked at the documents to see which fall into which category yet, but it would be interesting to know.

If a public body gets a lot of requests for a particular document under FoI, it would typically include those documents in a publication scheme, so that anybody could download them. Whether the FCO would in this case is anybody's guess ;-)

Oh, and the statement on Craig Murray's page that, "Net posting is not breaching copyright because there is no charge to access the documents" is of course nonsense.

This is slightly different in the US, where typically works produced by the Federal Government are public domain, rather than copyright; however, I can't comment on the Snepp case as I know nothing about it.

Posted by: Chris Lightfoot | Jul 9, 2006 4:40:47 PM

Maybe I'm being thicker than usual here, but wasn't the FOI Act one of those flagship pieces of legislation brought in with much fanfare in the early, idalistic days of the Blair administration?

The idea being that no longer could governments hide behind official secrecy to cover up dirty deeds. It was all supposed to be in line with that "ethical foreign policy" and "openess" we heard so much about.

Now that the current bunch of incompetents have discovered that they do occasionally feel the need to perform deeds dirty they've also discovered that they have made a rod for their own backs.

Unable to publicly admit that they had indeed made a huge fuckup they are now clutching at pathetic legalistic straws in an effort to save themselves. Sadly, as ever with this crowd, their efforts are half-arsed and contradictory and will only make the situation worse.

I mean, how was the FOI Act to work if people couldn't publish the things they found out?

"Dear Mrs Blogs,

Thankyou for your request for information under the FOI Act of 2000 (or Year 3 as we now like to call it).

As you can see from these reports I am required to give you, your child was indeed the subject of hideous, unauthorised medical experiments while you thought he was on a school daytrip.

With these documents you would be able to prove that little Timmy's second head is the result of those experiments and warn the public that the government is a dangerous organisation filled with megalomaniacal loons.

But I must remind you that in terms of Crown Copyright you cannot publish any of this information including this letter, by the way, or we will lock you up for a very long time.

You remain our servant,

A Jobsworth
Dept of Information"

Posted by: The Remittance Man | Jul 9, 2006 5:01:23 PM

RM -- yeah, that's basically it (well, except that the data in your example are sensitive personal data so probably wouldn't be revealable under FoI; replace "little Timmy" with "Form 3B at Lark Hill Primary School" and the example would be fine). But if one person can get the information out under FoI, anyone can (until the department lose the information, or decide that reproducing it exceeds a cost threshold, or come up with some other pretext not to do so or whatever). All they need to do is know what to request, and ask for it.

Posted by: Chris Lightfoot | Jul 9, 2006 5:32:48 PM

So I was right. Another fine clustefuck brought to from the people who gave you......

Ah, sod it, I can't be bothered to list it all.

Torture, mutilation and slow death are too good for these clowns. But I will settle for a cabinet suicide pact.


Posted by: The Remittance Man | Jul 9, 2006 6:55:45 PM