The UK government has finally enacted legislation which legalises the common practice of format-shifting films and music and the creation of remote backups, but critics claim the new copyright law still needs work.
Taking physical media and converting it into a more convenient format is hardly a rare sight: Apple famously launched its iTunes software and CD-burning iMac hardware on the back of the 'Rip, Mix, Burn' slogan, while Amazon recently started doing the legwork for you and offering instant MP3 downloads of selected physical CDs at the time of purchase. Technically speaking, however, anyone ripping the contents of a CD, DVD or Blu-ray in the UK has previously been committing an offence - even if the original was stored safely away never to be used at the same time as the converted version, and the ripped file kept for solely private use.
That's a sorry state of affairs, and one the government pledged to correct earlier this year when the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) declared that it would revise copyright law to make ripping media legal for private use. The new legislation was due to come into effect in June, but delays mean that it has only gone live this week.
The new exceptions allow for personal copying of any media for private use, but clarify that these copies must not be shared. 'It is unlawful to make copies for friends or family, or to make a copy of something you do not own or have acquired illegally, without the copyright owner’s permission,
' a government notice on the changes warns. 'So you are not able to copy CDs borrowed from friends, or to copy videos illegally downloaded from file-sharing websites.
Additional changes include a minor relaxation of the rules on using copyright material for the purpose of parody. In the UK, however, Crown Copyright material retains its copyright protection even in the face of parody. Critics claim this needs to be addressed, leading as it does to examples where Crown Copyright video footage of debates in Parliament can be used for satirical purposes by comedians outside the UK but not by UK citizens for the same purpose.
A summary of the current exemptions to copyright legislation, including the revised rules on ripping digital media, can be found on GOV.UK