updated 2/11/2005 4:00:24 PM ET 2005-02-11T21:00:24

The government on Friday proposed a new copyright law to make it illegal for Norwegians to copy songs from their own CDs onto MP3 players, but legal to do so for making a CD duplicate.

The proposal, intended to bring Norway's law in line with European Union rules, drew immediate praise from the music and film industry as well as criticism from opponents.

Even though Norway is has remained outside the EU, it is bound by most of the bloc's directives through the European Economic Area Agreement.

The new proposal would allow fines and a maximum penalty of three years in prison for violating copyrights and engaging in computer piracy.

The amendment, which requires parliament's approval, would make it illegal to crack security codes on DVD and CDs or to provide software or hardware for doing so, a news release said. It would still be legal for a person to make a copy of their own CD or DVD for private use, even if that means cracking the code, as long as it was being copied onto the same digital medium and not onto another one.

"For example, a CD's (security code) could be cracked to play a recording on a car stereo, since a CD-player would be seen as an appropriate medium," the news release said. "But the security code could not be cracked to copy the recording onto an MP-3 player, since such a device would not be seen as an appropriate for a CD."

Gisle Hannemyr, of the University of Oslo's Department of Informatics, said the law was unclear and unenforceable.

"We are going to be a nation of lawbreakers if this law is passed in its current form," he said on the state radio network NRK. For his part, Hannemyr said he has already copied an appropriate song for his own MP-3 player: Radiohead's "Hail to the Thief."

The industry organization, ICT-Norway, on the other hand, lauded the proposal as visionary.

"The Norwegian government has shown a broad vision that is unique in Europe," said the group's secretary general Per Morten Hoff. He praised the law for recognizing the industry's right to protect copyrighted material.

Last year, Norwegian Jon Lech Johansen, also known as DVD-Jon, won an important test case when a court acquitted him of violating computer piracy laws by writing and using a program called DeCSS to crack security codes on DVD films.

He posted the codes on the Internet in 1999 and became a folk hero among computer hackers. However, Norwegian courts ruled that he could not be convicted for making or using a tool to break into his own property, in form of films that he had legally purchased.

The parliament is expected to review the proposed law during the spring term and, if passed, it could go into force as early as July 1, the Norwegian news agency NTB reported.

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