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.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+

Filed Under: , , ,
Companies: uk music

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “UK Finally Changes Copyright Law To Allow Private Copies, But Music Industry Says It May Challenge Move In The Courts”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
20 Comments
PaulT (profile) says:

“The Review favours a limited private copying exception which corresponds to what consumers are already doing…. the benefit of being able to do this is already factored into the price that rights holders are charging”

That’s pretty much all you need to know. The law is essentially unenforceable, and people ignore it anyway. Which they should do, because it’s been a known cost of doing business since consumer recording equipment was first available.

“The Government do not believe that British consumers would tolerate private copying levies.”

Damn right. They already get ripped off left and right, especially if you compare with direct personal imports. Passing a tax to rip them off for stuff they aren’t going to buy as well as the stuff they do buy won’t go down well.

Tim Griffiths (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I think the point is that if you can copy something you already own for private use why does it matter what the source is? If I rip a cd I own or download a copy of it of the end result is the same so why should it matter?

I mean of course in terms of torrents you also upload which is unquestionably illegal but the question is an increasingly important one and really shows up the issues of using laws centuries old to deal with totally new concepts.

Anonymous Coward says:

“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.”

And the rights holders and middlemen will no doubt increase the purchase price of all the CD/DVD/Blu-ray’s etc. to the UK public to ensure that they will receive compensation on a private copy of that CD.DVD/Blu-ray etc.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

People in the UK already pay a premium for those things, and because they’ll often use excuses not to include half the special features, etc. they often get a lower quality product for that price as well.

But, yeah, all they need to do is raise the price again and they’ll magically recoup whatever they imagine they’re losing from private copying. They probably believe that, anyway.

MadAsASnake (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Unlikely – as the recommendation states, a.) buyers already assume they can do this, and b.) sellers already know that is a cost of doing business (not a cost as it happens…). If they increase prices, sales will fall. If they decrease prices sales will increase – look at the amazon / hachette argument to see just how far the copyright cult will go to ignore simple economics.

Anonymous Coward says:

“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.”

Was it not ruled in a court in The Netherlands earlier this year that the copyright levy tax on media (i.e. blank discs etc.) was illegal as it was extortion on people who did not do copying and therefore the copyright levy tax had to be scrapped? This ruling may impact the legality of downloading of copyright in The Netherlands as the copyright levy tax was a form of compensation for the downloading of copyright.

Anonymous Coward says:

“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.”

Wouldn’t it be possible to argue that those exceptions too could be factored into the price? If they are then the “prejudice to the rightholder” would still be minimal, wouldn’t it?

Being too restrictive on private copying seems like a democratic problem to me. Let’s say you’re a member of a group engaging in citizen journalism, should then copyright stop you from sharing relevant files with each other?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“Such exceptions often allow copies to be shared with family and friends, meaning that people can acquire copies without paying for them,”

So that goes the copying/sharing and not paying for them is stealing/theft argument that the copyright maximallists/shills like to throw about.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

It is legalized stealing under compensation from levies. The compensation is the key here and in EUs acquis.

I really like that they are rattling the legal saber in EU. If they actually win it, it will be quite the Pyrrhic victory since media-locking is almost universally disliked. If they lose it would be quite an ugly precedent for them.

Sheogorath (profile) says:

My version

“I am satisfied that the private copying exception will be introduced while providing fair compensation for songwriters, performers and other rights holders within the creative sector. A mechanism for fair compensation is a requirement of European law, and no levy for no sharing is fair. In response to the fallacious claims of the copyright industry, I am considering my legal options.”

Anonymous Coward says:

“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.”

Rubbish. The fair compensation for personal copies is £0.00. The fair compensation has been provided.

“In response we are considering our legal options”

Typical. Threaten lawsuits when anything goes the right way, instead of their way.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...
Loading...