2 Aug 2011

New freedom to copy music and videos in Government review

Channel 4 News obtains the first details of the Government’s plans to overhaul what has been termed Britain’s “archaic” copyright law, as Technology Correspondent Benjamin Cohen exclusively reports.

The changes – announced by Business Secretary Vince Cable – mean it will become legal for individuals to copy music and video they own to different formats – allowing companies like Google and Apple to open up new services.

Spoof music videos have millions of hits worldwide thanks to websites like YouTube.

Some of the most popular parodies have been British innovations – Newport State of Mind gained millions of views and even became a comic relief charity single, but struggled to stay online because it infringed on the original Jay-Z single Empire State of Mind.

Channel 4 News has obtained an advance copy of proposals to change copyright legislation which will make parodying the works of artists completely legal.

The Government is expected to publish its full response to the review of intellectual property by Professor Ian Hargreaves: 

- The Government will indicate that it wants to push ahead with Hargreaves recommendation to legalise private copying or "format shifting" of legitimately-purchased copyright works.

- Hargreaves says the Government should allow people to make copies for their own and immediate family's private use on different media.

- The Government believes this will make the copyright system fairer for consumers and support growth in new consumer technology.

- Private copying is something that thousands of people do every day, assuming it is already legal to do so. This move will bring copyright law into line with the real world, and with consumers' reasonable expectations.

- This move would only legalise private copying for non-commercial use. It would not allow people to share content over the internet without copyright owners' permission - on file sharing sites, for example.

- Hargreaves suggests this change could have a positive impact on economic growth as the law is currently holding back innovation in new consumer technologies.
New freedom to copy music and videos in Government review (Getty)

And that’s not the only change.

I can buy a CD any where in the world, but what I’m allowed to do with it – say putting it onto my computer or MP3 player is radically different in the UK to almost any other country because we have among the strictest, and some would say dated, copyright laws on the planet.

At the moment it is illegal to copy CDs onto your computer because you are moving your music file from one format to another.

In the future, if the plans become law, changing the format of the your content will be legal, and you will also be able to lawfully burn copies of the music and give them to your family.

However it will still be illegal to share the files with strangers over the internet.

One British inventor who will benefit to this change in the law is Martin Brennan. He sold 200,000 of his CD copying digital jukebox mostly in the UK, but although the device is totally legal – it’s actually illegal to use it. He was forced point this out in all his advertising.

It is not just British start-ups that will benefit – giant Google and Apple have been lobbying the Government to change the UK’s approach to copyright.

Google, Apple and Amazon all have systems that allow online content storage that would be in breach of current copy right law.

The changes will see the Government support new rules on how out of print books are distributed online.

As well as securing the rights of people to make fun out of singers like Lady Gaga, copyright holders will likely benefit from a rights exchange to ensure that the creative industries get the royalties owed to them without having to pick up the phone.