UK Finally Changes Copyright Law To Allow Private Copies, But Music Industry Says It May Challenge Move In The Courts
from the one-way-street dept
Three years ago, the UK government published the Hargreaves review of copyright laws in the digital age. As Mike wrote at the time, one of the key recommendations was the introduction of an exception to UK copyright law to allow people to make private copies (pdf):
The Review favours a limited private copying exception which corresponds to what consumers are already doing. As rights holders are well aware of consumers’ behaviour in this respect, our view is that the benefit of being able to do this is already factored into the price that rights holders are charging. A limited private copying exception which corresponds to the expectations of buyers and sellers of copyright content, and is therefore already priced into the purchase, will by definition not entail a loss for right holders.
The Government should introduce an exception to allow individuals to make copies for their own and immediate family’s use on different media. Rights holders will be free to pursue whatever compensation the market will provide by taking account of consumers’ freedom to act in this way and by setting prices accordingly.
As that notes, this is merely legalizing what people are already doing routinely. Moreover, the private copy exception is widely used in other countries. All-in-all, then, this was one of the least-controversial recommendations of the Hargreaves review, and yet it has taken until now to implement it. The Parliamentary debate before its final approval by the House of Lords on 29 July makes an important point about its scope:
The scope of the exception contrasts sharply with personal copying exceptions in other EU countries. Such exceptions often allow copies to be shared with family and friends, meaning that people can acquire copies without paying for them, so these countries have mechanisms designed to compensate creators for any sales lost as a result of the exception. Typically, levies are imposed on recording devices and media, which have to be paid whether or not they are used for private copying. French consumers pay a levy of €15 on top of the price of an MP3 player.
Copyright levies have been discussed many times on Techdirt. The UK government agrees that they are a terrible idea:
The Government do not believe that British consumers would tolerate private copying levies. They are inefficient, bureaucratic and unfair, and disadvantage people who pay for content. That is why the Government’s exception is narrow in scope. It will not allow you to give or sell copies to others, and therefore will not lead to lost sales to copyright owners, making the need for a levy unnecessary.
That’s because the EU Directive allowing national governments to introduce copyright exceptions stipulates that “rightholders should receive fair compensation to compensate them adequately” for such exceptions, but adds: “In certain situations where the prejudice to the rightholder would be minimal, no obligation for payment may arise.” This is what the UK government says is the case here.
But, of course, the maximalists just hate it when copyright is tweaked — however slightly — in favor of the public. As far as they are concerned, copyright change is a one-way street that always results in copyright getting longer and stronger. So the following reaction from UK Music, as reported by Out-law.com, was entirely predictable:
“We are disappointed that the private copying exception will be introduced without providing fair compensation for British songwriters, performers and other rights holders within the creative sector. A mechanism for fair compensation is a requirement of European law. In response we are considering our legal options,” it added.
The new UK copyright exceptions for parody, quotation and private copying will finally come into force on 1 October. Let’s hope they don’t get taken away again by an industry that seems to think it has a right to even higher monopoly rents.