It is illegal to rip music off a CD or put DVDs onto hard drives, UK High Court says

Copyright holders might be in line for compensation — though it’ll be very hard for them to tell if they’re actually being ripped off

People in the UK are now breaking the law whenever they rip a CD or DVD, the High Court has ruled.

The ruling had previously been in place, and was then overturned so that CD could be “format shifted” without paying over again. But the High Court has ruled that reversal unlawful, meaning that copyright holders for music and films could be in for huge compensation payouts for the illegal ripping.

The record industry claims that such ripping takes as much as £58 million from musicians, which they should receive back in compensation. But in practice, it’s difficult to see how the ruling will actually be enforced, and the ruling is likely to be largely symbolic.

The ruling doesn’t just stop people from taking music or films off discs so that they can be watched on portably entertainment gadgets like iPods or iPads. It also means that anyone taking music for future study — like teachers using videos in a class, or researchers looking at films — would be liable to pay out.

The Government had previously let such situations continue by introducing exemptions to let people rip media for personal use. But representatives of the music industry — including Basca, the Musicians' Union, and UK Music —challenged those exemptions and had them rejected by the High Court.

When it was previously illegal to rip music, prosecutions and claims were very rare, and the industry usually ignored those simply ripping music for their own personal and private use.

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