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Drafts for new copyright exemptions published

By | Published on Tuesday 1 April 2014


The Intellectual Property Office last week published draft statutory instruments that will amend IP law in the UK to expand the number of copyright exemptions, ie circumstances in which individuals can copy or use copyright material without licence.

Copyright in the UK has generally had less such exemptions than IP systems in the US and elsewhere in Europe, and there has been chatter for years about increasing the ‘use our stuff for free’ list over here too, especially since the 2011 Hargreaves Report. The draft proposals that will not go before parliament follow a lengthy consultation process by the IPO.

For the music industry, the big amend is the introduction of a private copy right, which means that consumers will be able to legally rip music files from CDs so they can store and/or listen to recordings via their PC or smart-phone, or indeed burn tracks back onto another CD like we all did back in the glory days of 2001. Providing, that is, the back up copies are for personal use only.

The fact such file ripping has been the norm for years now (and back up copying to cassette was common for ages before that) makes the bit of law that forbids it seem bizarre to the public at large, and arguably damages the credibility of copyright as a result. And to be fair the music industry has recognised this for some time, and doesn’t oppose the private copy right – that already exists in most other countries – in principle.

Though elsewhere in Europe where there already is a private copy right it’s usually customary to add a levy to CD-Rs and MP3 players that is paid back to the music community as compensation for the exemption existing. But the IPO’s proposal for the UK private copy right doesn’t include any such levy, which is something the British music industry ain’t so happy about. Even though the levy system is already proving problematic in Europe where there has been much debate about what exactly to apply the levy to in the post-CDR, post-MP3-player age.

So it will be interesting to see what the labels and music publishers are saying as these statutory instruments move through parliament in the coming weeks. Statutory Instruments are debated and voted on as they go through Westminster, but not amended. The aim is for the new exemptions – which also include new parody and quotation rights and provisions for the educational use of works – to kick in on 1 Jun.

On publishing the draft statutory instruments last week, the IPO said in a statement: “The government is making a series of small but important changes to copyright law to make it better suited for the digital age. They will also introduce greater freedoms in copyright law to allow third parties to use copyright works for a variety of economically and/or socially valuable purposes without the need to seek permission from copyright owners”.

You can check each of the new proposals online here. And we’ll provide an update on what these changes mean during the ‘Maximising Music Rights’ strand at The Great Escape in May, details on which here.