UK update to copyright law imminent

The UK is to update its 1988 copyright law for the digital age in line with a nearly three-year-old review

The UK is to update its 1988 copyright law in line with recommendations from a review of the legislation in the light of new digital formats for content, such as CDs, DVDs and e-books.

In May 2011, the Hargreaves review recommended changes to copyright law, noting that the law had “started to act as a regulatory barrier to the creation of certain kinds of new, internet-based businesses”.

Under the 1988 Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, it is illegal to transform a piece of copyrighted content from one storage form to another.

But the planned changes announced by the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) will legalise “ripping” content from purchased CDs and DVDs for use on mobile devices, such as MP3 players.

The changes will also mean that a book or film bought for one device can be copied for use on another without infringing copyright.

But transferring the content will be legal only if the content is owned by the person making the copy and the copy is made for personal use only.

 It will remain illegal to make copies for other people or to make a copy of something that is not owned or has been acquired without the copyright owner’s permission.

This means it will still be illegal to make copies of content for use by other people, to copy rented or streamed content, and to copy content downloaded illegally from file-sharing websites.

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Making copies of content “for family at home” is currently illegal, and there are no plans to change that, according to a guide published by the IPO.

Anyone who gives away or sells a CD that they have backed up will have to destroy the backup copy to stay within the law, the guide notes.

“The changes make small but important reforms to UK copyright law and aim to end the current situation where minor and reasonable acts of copying which benefit consumers, society and the economy are unlawful,” said the IPO in a statement.

“They also remove a range of unnecessary rules and regulations from the statute book in line with the government’s aim to reduce regulation.”

However, the IPO said some media are often protected by anti-copying technology to guard against copyright piracy, and this is protected by law.

Copyright owners will still be able to apply this protection. But if copy protection is too restrictive, consumers can raise a complaint with the secretary of state.

The government said the proposed legislation strikes an important balance between enabling reasonable use of copyright material in the modern age with minimal impact on copyright owners.

Before being approved, the regulations will be debated in both Houses of Parliament. If approved, the new rules could come into force as early as 1 June 2014.

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