Last year it became legal to copy CDs and DVDs for your own personal use; now it's been deemed illegal again by the High Court. The law is a mess, and fails to take account of how technology has changed the way we access music and films.

I've been away on holiday and come back to the news that the High Court has overturned last year's changes to copyright law in the UK, which allowed copying of films and music for your own personal use, either for backup or for format shifting to different devices.

I've been following this story since the Hargreaves Review in 2011, and it strikes me that last year's changes were eminently sensible. From 1st June 2014 it became legal to make backup copies of CDs and films you own for your own personal use, whether on some sort of hard drive or in the cloud.

"Copyright law is being changed to allow you to make personal copies of media you have bought, for private purposes such as format shifting or backup," said the UK's Intellectual Property Office (IPO). "The changes will mean you will be able to copy an album, film or book you have purchased for one device onto another without infringing copyright."

The changes were implemented last year under the Copyright and Rights in Performances (Personal Copies for Private Use) Regulations 2014.

MORE: CD and DVD copying to be made legal in the UK

More after the break

Given how many of us now copy CDs onto a NAS (network attached storage) device or hard drive for use on our home entertainment systems, or even in the car, that made perfect sense. You'd bought the original disc, so were simply transferring the content to another device to enjoy. The law had finally caught up with how we use technology in the 21st century.

And under the 2014 changes, remember, it remained illegal to make copies of CDs, DVDs and Blu-rays for other people or to give them access to your digital files.

But now the music industry has sucessfully challenged the new law, and the High Court, in its wisdom, has ruled that the changes made by the Government were "unlawful" due to the lack of any form of compensation for rights owners. You can read the full ruling here.

MORE: Ripping CDs and DVDs is illegal again

Of course I understand that musicians and film makers need to protect their copyright. That's fair enough. If someone downloads an album or film without legitimately paying for it, then they are breaking the law.

However, I have a large collection of CDs. All of which I have bought and paid for. Yes, I can listen to them on my CD player at home. But I also have a hard drive in my car and have copied 10 of my favourite CDs to that so I can listen to the music while driving, and ensure I don't lose the original discs if my car happens to get stolen. That means I am now breaking the law for listening to something I have already purchased.

And if I store those same CDs in the cloud (which I do), so I can access them on my laptop, smartphone or tablet, presumably I am breaking the law once again? I am not alone. Increasingly, with multi-room systems and the like, people have NAS drives or media servers for archiving and accessing their music around the house.

Presumably it will also be illegal to transfer CDs you've bought to your iTunes library. Has anyone mentioned that to Apple?

So should we be "compensating" rights owners for transferring something we've already paid for on to another device? No, I don't think so. Remember the old "home taping is killing music" campaign from a few decades ago? It didn't stop people doing it.

So my guess is that, mostly, people will carry on making backups and copies. Does Mr Justice Green then envisage police raids on people's homes to check their hard drives? What about music or films stored in the cloud? And then there's the not insignificant issue of streaming (which I understand is becoming quite popular, m'lud) involving, in some cases, music copied from CDs to the cloud.

No wonder the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Sajid Javid, has said that he wants to "reflect further and in due course take a view as to whether... a new private copying exception should be introduced". For now, he accepts that "a quashing order [of the 2014 regulations] is appropriate at this stage".

What next? Well the music industry wants a tax to be applied to blank CDs, hard drives, memory sticks and other blank media, which could then be shared among rights holders. Really? So is Government expected to implement a retrospective tax on my NAS drive that I've already bought, or the hard drive built into my car's audio system, or any old CD-R/USB stick I happen to have lying around the house? That hardly seems workable.

And surely if it's illegal to copy anything, then we shouldn't be buying blank media in the first place. So sales would dry up and there'd be no extra tax revenue anyway.

With fewer and fewer people using disc-based media anyway, and streaming via the cloud or from a portable device becoming increasingly the norm, Government is going to have its work cut out to devise a new law that a) works and b) reflects the reality of how we use technology. Good luck to that.




basshound's picture

I wonder if the Judge has a

I wonder if the Judge has a grasp of how new technology is used e.g. Nas drives,streaming etc. or has been well advised on such or was it a case of " and what is a cd,pray tell ? "

shadders's picture

RE : I wonder if the Judge has a

This does remind me of the Not The Nine O'Clock News sketch where the judge presiding over a case where stolen goods are being discussed - all latest gadgets, VCR player etc., and the judge does not have a clue.

When the question came up about the difference between the standard and deluxe blow up doll, the Judge immediately states the deluxe is the one with the real hair.....

Horses for courses.



cs2011's picture

What about iTunes downloads and Time Machine ?

As I see it, this doesn't just apply to CDs/DVDs, but also to downloaded music and films via iTunes.  Given that most Apple Mac owners will have set up an automated 'Time Machine' backup on their Macs, they are all also routinely breaking the law, every time Time Machine operates.

The law is absurd.

Mark Hall's picture

If your hard drive fails or

If your hard drive fails or corrupts the file and you've exceeded a download limit, the seller will reply by saying you should have backed it up. I dare them to say that now - aiding and abetting

MP3 Mix's picture

Making views clear to the music industry

The music industry seems to, again want their cake and eat it.  Since I was a teen everyone I know has made copies to use in the car, walkman, MP3 player etc.  Virtually everyone had made the copy from a legal copy they had purchased.  You will always get people whole download illegally but in my exprinece they are by far the minority.  The latest changes have effectively made criminal of the vast majority of the poulation of the UK.  So lets say that at a very conservative estimate 40,000,000 of us are now guilty.  What would happen I wonder if we all handed ourselves in to the police at exactly the same time.  At a guess I am guessing that the criminal justice system would grind to a halt.  Not very practical I admit but it would ably demonstrate the contempt the vast majority of the population view this latest change.  After supporting the music and film industry for decades by paying inflated prices for music and films maybe we should just stop.  For two months have a coordinated no purchase of any music of Films and see how long it takes for the inductry to relent.    

Mark Hall's picture

I wholeheartedly agree. Once

I wholeheartedly agree. Once my latest pre orders are delivered I am not purchasing/streaming/renting another album or movie for the rest of this year. I have enough, I can cope and will enjoy not making these greedy bloated self serving organisations any richer

mrfree2e's picture


How do Amazon stand with their Auto Rip facility for CD's?


Mark Hall's picture

Greedy Rip Off Industry

Yet again hit those who actually pay. Did I buy a license or a CD? If it was a CD then it was overpriced to start with. I am NOT paying again. Nor do I agree with a tax on hard drives - are they suggesting being paid twice? (once for the download and then again for the tax on the hard drive?????) What a rip off, the judge should hang his head in shame...

happy_hifi's picture

Dear Lord.

Nobody with any intelligence will take any notice of all of this jibber jabber.

Just copy what you want and that's that.

Who will care? 

Absolutely nobody.

Yesterdays issues in any case.

luke472's picture


I think this is a way for the record companies to get us over to paid streaming services by making it illegal to stream what we have paid for. Once they have most of the people across to paid streaming services we'll have to pay more than $10 a month. I'll keep doing the same thing where I buy physical media while I have the chance.