How many of you own an ipod or MP3 player? You may not know it but you have been breaking the law.

We may be behind the US, Canada and most of Europe, but the UK is finally addressing a major copyright law that has held us behind the digital curve for decades. Copyright law in the UK currently states that it is illegal to copy CDs and DVDs due to strong resistance put forward by copyright holders regarding fears of piracy. This means that ‘ripping’ CDs in order to store them on a computer or portable device infringes upon copyright laws. This is a fact that has long been recognised by record companies but has been overlooked due to the time, effort and cost of prosecuting everyone with a portable music device.

The UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) have recently announced their decision to amend these overly restrictive regulations and, should the decision go through, you will be permitted to back up your digital media (including CDs, DVDs and eBooks) for personal use from the 1st June. In a recent statement, the IPO announced that “the changes make small but important reforms to UK copyright law and aim to end the current situation where minor and reasonable acts of copying which benefit consumers, society and the economy are unlawful.”

It will still be illegal to copy material for friends or to make copies of borrowed or illegally downloaded content, however, these changes signal an important move for the UK in keeping up with the digital age where storage and ease of access across formats are increasingly important. It also means that, if you happen to still be peering over endless stacks of CDs, you can now legally condense them into a much more practical storage system – although, should you give your CDs away, you will be required to destroy the digital copy.

It is also pointed out that many DVDs are protected by anti-copying technology which could still serve as a barrier to consumers hoping to back up collections.

The amendments follow suggestions put forward by the Hargreaves Report, a study carried out for the government three years ago, begging the question: is this all too late? The British Phonographic Industry (BPI) recently reported that 50% of the total UK record industry’s income comes from digital sales whilst total revenue from physical CD sales are down 6.4%. Furthermore, with streaming sites growing in popularity, should copyright law still be focusing their concern on how people are using their physical purchases?

Additional changes to the regulations will mean that it will become legal to quote another person’s work without permission, whereas it is currently only legal when being used for criticism or news reporting purposes. It will also ease laws on the use of others’ work for the creation of parodies, opening the stage for many more of those ever popular Youtube music videos.

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