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Government to announce copyright reforms

By | Published on Tuesday 2 August 2011


The government will publish proposals for changes to British copyright law tomorrow based on the much previously reported recent review of intellectual property rules by Professor Ian Hargreaves.

Among the proposals, which Vince Cable will present, will be the introduction of a private copy right in the UK, so that making private copies of CDs becomes legal for the first time. This would be an important change in the British copyright system, even though it would have zero effect on rights owners and users alike, given that half the population doesn’t know that such private copies are currently illegal, the other half ignore the rule, and no rights owner would ever sue someone for making a back up copy for private use.

The major record labels are likely to push for compensation for the introduction of the new private copy right – some kind of levy on digital music players, similar to that that exists in some other countries where the private copy right has always been part of the copyright system – though such a levy is likely to be resisted by politicians, not least because Hargreaves advised against it. Which means we can expect some squabbling ahead if the music industry does push for the levy, and yet more reasons for the record companies to be portrayed as money grabbing cunts.

Meanwhile, the only really tangible impact of the introduction of a private copy right would be that very basic digital locker services, which allow you to make back-up copies of your digital music collection (much of which may have been ripped from CD) to an external server, would become legal in the UK. Technically they are currently illegal. Though, of course, the legalities of anything but the most basic digital lockers are still very much of debate, particularly in the US.

Other changes expected to be in Cable’s proposals tomorrow are the introduction of a parody right in the UK for the first time, an area of law YouTube is known to want expanded.