UK To Allow Copying Digital Media For Personal Use

Max 'Beast from the East' Smolaks covers open source, public sector, startups and technology of the future at TechWeekEurope. If you find him looking lost on the streets of London, feed him coffee and sugar.

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The government appears to be fighting against restrictive DRM measures by relaxing copyright rules

The UK government is set to introduce exceptions to copyright law which will allow consumers to make copies of legitimately acquired CDs, DVDs and e-books for personal use.

According to the Intellectual Property Office, the changes “aim to end the current situation where minor and reasonable acts of copying which benefit consumers, society and the economy are unlawful”. For example, it is currently illegal to copy tracks from a CD you’ve just bought to your own digital music player.

If the new rules are approved by parliament, they will come into force on 1 June 2014.

The changes will also enable consumers to quote someone’s work without seeking permission from the copyright owner, as long as they keep the quote short and acknowledge the source. There are similar provisions for media content used for comedy purposes, for example parody videos on YouTube.

20130110_amazonautoripcdFair use

Exceptions to the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 were first suggested in a report by professor Ian Hargreaves, which was commissioned by the government in 2011. They aim to change the outdated legislation and favour the rights of consumers over those of the copyright holders.

After extensive consultation, the Intellectual Property Office has outlined final changes to the copyright regulation, due to come into force in June.

Under the new rules, people will be free to backup films, games, books and music, as well as covert them into different formats, as long as they have paid for the original media. They will also be allowed to store these copies online using services like Dropbox or Mega.

“The majority of uses of copyright materials will continue to require permission from copyright owners, so you should be careful when considering whether you can rely on an exception, and if in doubt you should seek legal advice,” warns the Intellectual Property office in its consumer guide.

It remains illegal to share copied files with friends and family, or link to them online. And to stay on the right side of the law, users are required to destroy any and all traces of the copies they had made when the original media is sold.

Interestingly, if the Digital Rights Management (DRM) features are too restrictive and prevent the owner from making a copy of the media they bought, they can file an official complaint with the Secretary of State, who can then force media producers to enable copying.

Non-commercial researchers should also be able to copy copyrighted materials for private study.

The Intellectual Property Office says these changes will not have a negative impact on the revenue of the rightsholders. But they are expected to benefit the technology companies “by removing barriers and costs and improving entry to technology markets which rely on consumers being able to make private copies”.

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