Copyright law change means iPod users are no longer criminals

Kevin Rawlinson
Wednesday 03 August 2011 00:00 BST

They may not have known it, but users of MP3 players, CDs or DVDs have probably been breaking the law for years as they transferred their favourite song from one format to another.

Today the Business Secretary, Vince Cable, will back plans that will legalise the practice, and also give the makers of spoof videos free rein.

Under the proposals, based on recommendations made in the Hargreaves Review of Intellectual Property, the sharing of legitimately purchased media across platforms, and with immediate family members, will be allowed by law.

Under the UK's current copyright laws, transferring media from one format to another – for example, from a CD to a computer or an iPod – is illegal, even if the owner is the only person who ever uses the media. And, last year "Newport State of Mind", a popular video parodying Alicia Keys and Jay-Z's song "Empire State of Mind" was removed from YouTube after the songwriters complained that it infringed their copyright. Strict laws also govern how resources like academic journals can be used.

In his response to Professor Ian Hargreaves' review, commissioned by David Cameron to look at how copyright law should be modernised to fit in with digital advancements, Mr Cable will say that he wants to introduce "exceptions" to the UK's copyright laws. In his report, Professor Hargreaves said that sharing of legitimately purchased media across platforms and with immediate family members should be allowed by law. Professor Hargreaves also said that parodies should be excepted from copyright law.

The move is likely to be welcomed by performers, who would be allowed to spoof work without seeking permission from the copyright holder, proposals the Business Secretary will accept when he delivers his response at a conference this morning.

A Department for Business, Innovation and Skills spokesman said that thousands of people copy music privately every day, "assuming it is already legal to do so". He added: "This move will bring copyright law into line with the real world, and with consumers' reasonable expectations."

Mr Cable said: "Allowing people to create parody or satire without fear of copyright infringement has the potential to boost the creative industries and expand their freedom of expression."

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