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Tuesday, 31 May 2011

UK digital copyright law changes

I’m not sure how much people are aware of it but the rather antiquated UK copyright laws are set to be updated to take account of digital-media.

The findings of a six month independent review led by Professor Ian Hargreaves, published on 19/05/10, now seem set to become law. The recommendations of this report embraced changes to the existing UK’s intellectual property and copyright laws to include the digital marketplace.

It looks like we will be getting laws passed that makes it legal for us to copy music from one format to another for personal private use. So we may now finally be able to copy those old CD’s to our laptop, iPod, or other mp3 player without breaking the law! Ok, in general these laws were never enforced, and we did have a sort of unofficial ‘fair use’ system, although not in-law. But these changes will have more serious long-term effects.
Professor Hargreaves said the current laws are “obstructing innovation and economic growth in the UK”, a comment that was directed towards digital companies in particular. He also called for the government polices to “be more closely based on economic evidence”. He went on to say that the recommendations “are designed to enhance the economic potential of the UK's creative industries and to ensure that the emergence of high technology businesses, especially smaller businesses, in other sectors is not impeded by our IP laws."

So how will this affect e-book sales and usage?
Well, under the new laws it will be legal to copy copyrighted files legally downloaded to your computer to another compatible device for private purposes. So you can copy music or video from a PC or Laptop to a suitable player and, presumably, do the same thing with e-book files. I take this to mean that you can legally convert that EPUB file to any other format for use on, say a Kindle for example. I’m not a lawyer but I can’t see what the difference would be.
The recommendations go on to say that, digital copying of medical and other journals for computerised analysis in research, is also allowed. So what are the implications for this? What information would be covered and what type of access will be granted?

From first impressions this seems set to go much further than the American ‘fair use’ policy, and hopefully it will close some of the loop-holes present in that system.

Maybe our American friends will be downloading material form over here in future, instead of the other way around ;)

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