Photo by Braden Kowitz
In August, the UK’s High Court overturned legislation that allowed music listeners the legal right to copy purchased songs to multiple devices. Now, Arts Technica reports that the government has abandoned the private copying exception altogether and thus, it’s once again illegal for UK citizens to copy music, even if they own it.
Critics argue that UK’s copyright laws are archaic in the digital age, and it’s hard to argue otherwise: basic practices, such as backing music up to the cloud and transferring files between audio devices, are illegal. However, when the UK government proposed the private copying exception, the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors, the Musicians’ Union, and UK Music asked for a formal judicial review. The High Court judge ruled that the copyright exception was “flawed” because “the evidence relied upon to justify the conclusion about harm was inadequate/manifestly inadequate.”
The UK government could have conducted more research to prove that copyright holders would not suffer from such legislation, or it could have amended the legislation to include a different compensation model. Instead, as Arts Technica notes, the government chose to withdraw the legislation altogether.
As discussed following the judge’s initial decision over the summer, throwing out the private copying exception theoretically means platforms such as iTunes are illegal, as they give users the option of copying their music. The same goes for transferring VHS to DVDs.
Essentially, if a UK music fan wants to be in the legal right, they would need to purchase a copy of the song/album for each device they intend to listen to it on. A UK government spokesmen contends that it’s unlikely individuals would ever be prosecuted for engaging in music sharing, however, the current legislation does give copyright holders the legal right to do so. What’s more, it opens the door for lawsuits against Apple and other similar platforms.