Call to exempt iPod 'rippers' from prosecution

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For millions of people it is now the only way to enjoy their fix of Arctic Monkeys, Razorlight or even Girls Aloud. Pop a CD into a computer, "rip" the contents, and then play it back on their iPod. It is also illegal, and is claimed to cost the music industry hundreds of millions of pounds.

Now ministers are being urged to relax copyright laws to prevent music fans from facing prosecution for what is now common practice. The Institute for Public Policy Research think-tank has recommended an overhaul of the legislation to allow a "private right to copy" music, and thus stop home users being treated the same as large-scale pirates.

A majority of Britons admit to "ripping" CDs on to their computers for playback on other devices such as iPods and other MP3 players; and a National Consumer Council survey recently found that three-fifths of adults believe it to be perfectly legal to do so.

The IPPR said a upcoming review of intellectual property, set up by Chancellor Gordon Brown and chaired by Andrew Gowers, should update the copyright laws to take account of the changes in the way people listen to music and watch films. Its report, Public Innovation: Intellectual Property in a Digital Age, said the new right would have no significant impact on copyright holders.

Ian Kearns, deputy director of the IPPR, said: "Millions of Britons copy CDs on to their home computers, breaking copyright laws every day. British copyright law is out of date. When it comes to protecting the interests of copyright holders, the emphasis the music industry has put on tackling illegal distribution, and not prosecuting for personal copying, is right. But it is not the industry's job to decide what rights consumers have. That is the job of Government."

The advent of the digital age was initially damaging to the music industry, as it failed to embrace the use of computers for storing and playing back songs. Computer users then turned to file-sharing sites such as Napster to expand their collections for free.