Changes to copyright law will also affect using songs for “caricature, parody or pastiche” - meaning that your Gangnam Style lip-dub is finally legal

Have you ever copied music from a CD onto your computer or smartphone? If so, you’ve committed a crime – one which the UK government has only just decided to take off the books.

From 1 June this year, the public will officially be allowed to copy CDs, DVDs and ebooks “for private purposes such as format shifting or backup”. The change in the law comes after a government-commissioned survey found that 85 per cent of consumers thought that this was already legal.

As the current law stands, the expectation from copyright holders is that customers will purchase multiple copies of the same media for different devices. This means that if you downloaded an album from iTunes but want to put it on a CD to play in your car, you have to buy the CD again or you’re breaking the law.

This section of copyright law is not one that is enforced with any regularity, but copyright advocates say that it demonstrates how out of step legislation is with public practice.

The changes set out by the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) mean that customers will also be allowed to store media in “a personal online storage medium, such as a private cloud,” although it will remain illegal to pass on any copies of music or films without destroying the original.

For the public these changes will only be making legal a number of already commonplace practices (eg students making copies of copyrighted material for study or research), but the UK government says the changes will have a direct benefit to the technology sector, increasing revenue by £31 million per year.

Interestingly, the changes to the law also cover another activity dear to technology-savvy customers: parody videos on YouTube. Under the current law it’s still illegal to make a lip-dub version of Pharrel’s ‘Happy’ without getting permission from his record label – and the same is true of any piece of fan-made “caricature, parody or pastiche”.

The IPO acknowledges that in the 21 century “things like video remixes are part and parcel of interactions between private citizens” and that applying for permission is “costly and time-consuming, and can get in the way of people’s ability to make comedy and satirical works.”

We have a feeling that this law never really stopped people making these sorts of videos, but now this sort of tomfoolery is completely legal as long as the use is “fair dealing” – a legal term that basically means ‘you can copy it as long as you’re not taking away from the success of the original’.

These changes are arriving more than a little late (for most younger customers even the concept of copying a CD is alien) but they do show that the government is at least attempting to keep up with the times - just mind that you don't copy any CDs before the 1st of June.