UK plans to legalise CD ripping

Proposed changes in the UK copyright law could make legal the widespread practice of copying music from CDs to MP3 players

Lord Triesman, the UK's Minister for Intellectual Property, launched a copyright consultation on 8 January with proposals to include greater freedom for consumers, libraries and education.

Under the proposals, consumers would be able to legally format shift, for example to transfer music between CDs and MP3 players when they own, and retain, the original. Many consumers believe, incorrectly, that this practice, called CD ripping, is already legal. Under the new proposals, multiple copying, selling or posting the ripped files on the Internet would remain unlawful; the proposed exception to copyright applies only to personal use.

In an exclusive interview with Engineering & Technology, Triesman commented that "copyright law affects our everyday lives. It underpins the success of a variety of sectors of UK industry such as music, film, computer games and sport". The proposals could form part of the governmental programme to be announced in the Queen's Speech in November 2008.

UK Intellectual property office chief executive Ian Fletcher said: "We should not underestimate the importance of making sure that we draw the line between access and protection in the right place. I appreciate that there will be a range of views as to where that line should be, but I would urge all those with an interest to make sure their voice is heard."

But David Stopps of the Music Managers Forum has called for home copying levies to be imposed, voicing concerns on behalf of authors and performers: "[They] should be compensated for exceptions to copyright. There are home copying levies in all European States except the UK, Luxembourg and Ireland," he said, adding that, "600 million Euros in levies was collected last year by European Union states".

Dr Stephen Smith, a patent attorney representing the Intellectual Property Awareness Network, felt that increasing public awareness of breach of copyright was key to the success of the measures. "People don't see it as theft," he said, "and they see no way of being found out. We cannot enter into a Big Brother society, so better basic knowledge and understanding of copyright is key."

Image: Proposals to make CD copying legal for personal format shifting are being introduced

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