Laws relaxed on copying music and film content

03/08/11

MP3 player

For the first time in the UK, it'll soon be legal to transfer files from your own CDs or DVDs onto your MP3 player, your computer or other devices.

Millions of people have been doing this for years, with the music industry turning a blind eye to copying for personal use.

It's always been against the law but now the government wants to change that.

That's after it commissioned a report to recommend changes to old UK copyright laws which hadn't kept up with new technology trends.

The result was the Hargreaves Review, which said the government should make it legal to move digital files you own from one device or format to another.

'Joke versions'

It also suggested that the government should relax laws which make comedy covers or parodies of art illegal.

That would mean that joke versions of hit songs like 2010's Newport State of Mind, a Welsh themed send-up of Jay-Z and Alicia Keys' Empire State of Mind, would no longer break copyright regulations.

That track was removed from YouTube in August 2010 after a copyright claim by EMI Publishing - it had attracted hundreds of thousands of views before then.

Amazon cloud player screen
Image caption Cloud music players will be legal in the UK when the laws change

The government said that any new laws would only allow files to be copied for private use, and they couldn't be shared on the internet.

It reckons that changing the law will mean more new technology will thrive in the UK, meaning the economy will benefit by £8bn.

Previously, some music players or other devices were technically illegal to use, and manufacturers had to warn customers who bought them that they were breaking the law.

But with more and more people storing music and movies digitally, technology for storing and streaming tracks is advancing all the time.

If the law stayed the same, more and more new products would face legal difficulties if they wanted to launch in the UK.

The proposed change is big news for "cloud" music players - they're websites which allow users to host their music online and then play it from a wide range of devices anywhere in the world.

The point of cloud sites is that they allow people to listen to their own tracks no matter where they are, on their mobile or on lots of different computers.

Amazon recently launched its cloud music player in the US, while Google and Apple have similar services, but all three would technically be illegal under the current UK legislation.

With the law set to change it seems highly likely that those technologies, and others, will be available in the UK sooner rather than later.