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Government set to move UK copyright law into digital age

Warwick Ashford

The government is set to move UK copyright law into the digital age by accepting some of the recommendations of the Hargreaves Review of the current legislation.

The review, aimed at identifying aspects of the copyright law outdated by technological innovation, suggests legalising format shifting such as CD and DVD ripping for personal use.

Unlike most countries, the UK's current intellectual property regime makes it technically illegal to transfer content from CDs or DVDs on to a different format, such as an MP3 file on a computer.

Business secretary Vince Cable is set to announce the official response to the Hargreaves Review in London today.

Guy Wilmot, solicitor at legal firm Russell-Cooke, said copyright legislation in the UK is very restrictive in various ways and many households in the UK are likely to be in breach of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 by making back-up copies of music, films and software.

"However it is not true that all home copying is infringement as these days many copyright licences for content do allow back-up copies, also breach of copyright by copying within a household is rarely, if ever, enforced, unlike filesharing with strangers which is treated very seriously," he said.

The argument is that the problem for innovation is that companies are cautious about developing technology to facilitate home back-up copying as they fear legal consequences such as being found to be a "secondary infringer" by allowing or assisting breaches of copyright.

"Some caution is advised as to whether this is really an issue as the same rules never stopped double tapedecks from being sold," said Wilmot.

The government is widely expected to implement many parts of the Hargreaves Review, particularly legalising non-commercial copying for private use as it would bring the UK in line with many other countries. The review says keeping this practice illegal is stifling innovation.


Photo: Thinkstock


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