Copyright Law Finally Aligns with Me

On June 1st 2014, some much needed changes are being made to exceptions to copyright law which amongst other things, will allow conversion of personal media between file formats.

Finally, we’ll able to make personal conversions of digital media (at least they will be now counted as legal copies). I’ve long made copies of my cd’s to listen to whilst coding (iTunes allows me to do so simply) – but it is not currently legal to move these files to another storage medium, such as an mp3 player. The fact is that most people have been ripping cds and copying them to iPods since it was technically possible, but music companies have never prosecuted anyone as the implications would stem far and wide and would the costs would too prohibitive to be able to enforce them.

It’s also not currently legal to rip movies to another format. So copying a dvd to a mkv file to play elsewhere is construed illegal. The fact movie studios put protection in place on their dvds to prevent you from doing so puts most people off doing so anyway. From June 1st this also changes so it will also be legal (but probably will be as difficult due to the copy protection in place). The guidance doesn’t specifically mention blu-rays by name, but it does say “The exception will apply to any copies you have bought, other than computer programs” – which I see to include blu-rays. However, it does also mention that copy protection may still be in place on those formats. Which you can raise a complaint to the secretary of state about if you think it’s too restrictive (good luck getting a response there!).

I’m a big fan of said changes, mainly due to the fact I own a huge amount of discs which aren’t currently allowed to be any format other than that they were distributed in. DVD’s, CD’s and Vinyl(!). I’ve found this frustrating, as my own stance is I should be able to manipulate the media to my hearts content within my own 4 walls. In fact, in order to listen to myself practicing when I used to dj, I need to make recordings which change their format. The fact that I’ll be able to do this within the law makes me a very happy chap indeed. Up until now, the law has been fairly grey on the matter, but hasn’t prosecuted anyone for format conversion (as far as I’m aware).

The new guidance is quick to point out that it’ll still be illegal to distribute the media you create – You have to “own” the media you’re converting. Therefore duplicating a friends mp3 collection at work from their hard drive will still be illegal. If you sell the original format from which you made copies, then your copies will again be illegal. Again this aligns with how I feel things should be done. I feel like I should be paying someone for the entertainment I enjoy from said media. The artist/record labels decide a price and that’s what I should pay – but I don’t feel like they can make me pay multiple times for the same thing, especially if I can create said formats from media I already own. If you hold a copy but haven’t paid for it, I feel it fair for it to be deemed illegal, however possible it is technically to achieve.

In summary, I feel these changes are great (but long overdue).

You can read a full summary of changes to consumers issued by the Intellectual Property Office here. Amusingly, the document explains you may be affected if you “read books, watch films or listen to music” – or my favourite “use electronic devices”. I guess that covers anyone reading this then.

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