Intellectual property laws in countries around the world are severely outdated and were never designed to deal with the advent of things like compact discs, streaming services and file sharing and they were definitely not set up to cope with the logistics behind “personal use,” which is the idea that users should be allowed to copy media that they’ve bought onto devices or systems that they own in order to make consumption of said media more convenient. Well, it looks like the UK is one of the countries joining in on the changes to intellectual property law and has legalised the ripping and backing up of media stored on disc for personal use.
The notice of change by the Intellectual Property Office for the UK is titled “Exceptions to copyright: Guidance for consumers.” What it essentially means is that from June 2014, anyone living in the UK has the right to back up and copy media such as music, e-books and films for personal use and, surprisingly, for format shifting. One of the original issues stemming from the use of antiquated laws for copyright was that consumers were not allowed to rip music to music players on their computer or to a dedicated device and they were effectively committing a second crime by re-coding the media into a different format.
The new legislation also opens up issues regarding to the legality of storing music and other media into a home server or as a backup to a cloud service. Legally in the UK you’re breaking the law if you do the following:
1) Rip music that you’ve bought into iTunes
2) Sync some of those ripped tracks to your iPod/iPhone/iPad
3) Subscribe to iTunes match and upload your music collection into the cloud
4) Stream the music stored in iCloud to your devices
Not only is the act of copying the music technically copyright infringement, there is also the issue, however small, that the albums you paid for may not have a license that covers things like streaming from the cloud. iTunes match also allows you to stream music that you’ve copied from friends as well so that’s another can of worms that need to be addressed in future. The internet makes concepts like ownership of property a very muddy area and there’s a slow shift in the way these issues are being addressed that hints that common sense may be prevailing here.
Of course, this doesn’t stop that other thing that’s also related to copyright infringment of media – circumvention of copy protection schemes. Its still illegal for you to use DVD Fab to rip a high-quality copy of your collector’s edition Avatar DVD for playback on your home theater devices because that works around the copy protection on the disc.
If you play back the movie on a PS3 and send the audio through a mixture of RCA and HDMI to work around Cinavia, that’s also illegal. Hilariously, it’s not illegal if you’re playing the movie on a device that doesn’t support protection schemes like Cinavia because you’re not curcimventing them. Lol?
The changes to the UK laws don’t allow for backups of installation media or contents of computer software. So, that 500GB backup of Steam games is still an issue because it’s legally not allowed. Thankfully it’s not enforceable either.
Its good that the UK is on track to revise the way they look at media ownership and it’s awesome to see cool heads prevail and acknowledge that, yes, copyright laws are outdated and should not be applied wholesale to digital content. I only hope that more countries follow suit and allow for the proliferation of new services on the internet that deliver media to consumers in new and interesting ways and allow for consumers to set up media servers and rip their movies to their heart’s content knowing that they are now backed up by law.