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Government to allow consumers to rip CDs and DVDs

David Ludlow
3 Aug 2011
Government to allow consumers to rip CDs and DVDs
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Updating out-of-date copyright laws

With the wide-spread use of smartphones, tablets and laptops, it seems only natural and fair that we should be allowed to rip our CDs, DVDs and Blu-ray discs for viewing on these devices. In the UK, this process is currently still illegal.

Under copyright reforms proposed by the government, this is set to be dramatically changed. Following a report by Professor Ian Hargreaves, it was estimated that the UK economy could get a boost of up to £7.9bn a year, as changes to our outdated copyright laws would drive growth.

One of the key recommendations, out of the 10 Hargreaves Review Recommendations was to update what is lawful to copy, including copying for private use and format shifting.

"In recent years, the UK has failed to make the changes needed to modernise copyright law, for which we will pay an increasing economic price as we make our way into the third decade of the commercial internet," said professor Hargreaves.

Vince Vable, the business secretary has said that he's backing the proposed changes as well.

"We are determined to explore how exceptions to copyright can benefit the UK economy and support growth. Private copying is carried out by millions of people, and many are astonished that it is illegal in this country," said Cable.

As far as music is concerned, consumers have been able to format shift music for years without threat, as the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) has stated that it would not prosecute anyone that has converted music they've bought to a digital format.

For films, it's a bit different, as the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) has never stated that it won't prosecute people for format shifting. Then, there's an added layer of complexity, as both DVD and Blu-ray discs have digital copy protection, which means that they're protected by another law: the Copyright and Related Rights Regulations 2003. This law makes criminal offences of "manufacturing for sale or hire, importation, advertising or marketing a service the purposes of which is to enable or facilitate the circumvention of technical measures" and "providing, promoting, advertising or marketing a service the purpose of which is to enable or facilitate the circumvention of technical measures".

In other words, the software that lets you copy a protected disc is illegal to buy and for the media to even talk about. If the copyright on copying discs is to be relaxed, then the Copyright and Related Rights Regulations 2003 act also has to be relaxed in order to let people talk about and sell the necessary software legally.

This opens up a new can of worms, as the kinds of software that make copying discs possible can also remove region coding from discs, as well as stripping out High Definition Content Protection (HDCP) from HDMI cables, allowing HD content to be played on any display.

As well as relaxing copyright on format shifting, a new recommendations states that it should be legal to use cloud music and video services, where music and films are stored online and accessed from a range of devices anywhere in the world. Amazon, Google and Ubuntu have such services already, although their use could be illegal under current UK law.

Finally, the new laws will allow parodies of songs and films to be made without threat of legal action. Joke songs, such as Newport State of Mind, a cover-version of Jay-Z's Empire State of Mind, would be safe from legal threats.

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