UPDATE: Government to accept changes to copyright law to make ripping of CDs and DVDs legal

Rules outlawing the transfer of content from CDs or DVDs on to portable players and computers are to be scrapped by the Government.

Business secretary Vince Cable has today given the official response to the Hargreaves Review of UK copyright law (see original story below).

Mr Cable told the BBC that he hoped to add "more clarity" to the current copyright laws and confirmed that most private ripping of music and video would no longer be technically illegal.

One of the most significant recommendations that the government plans to implement is the legalisation of "format shifting" – where users rip (copy) content from CDs or DVDs for their own personal use.

"We are talking about big changes," says Mr Cable.

Legalising non-commercial copying for private use would bring the UK into line with many other nations and also meet the "reasonable expectations" of consumers, the Government believes.

The change would not make it legal to make copies and then share them online.

However, while it's easy to copy a CD, most DVDs and Blu-ray discs include copy protection, so it's harder to make copies. It will be interesting to see if the change in legislation forces the film studios to remove copy protection from DVDs/Blu-rays.

Given the response of the film industry so far, that seems unlikely. Lavinia Carey, director general of the British Video Association, says that allowing so-called format shifting would be "extremely damaging" and that "it’s for the rights owner to decide how to offer the [digital] copy".

Published 18.05.11

Business secretary Vince Cable is expected to give cabinet-level support to the proposals put forward in the Hargreaves report on intellectual property and copyright laws, which is published today.

Professor Ian Hargreaves's report calls for a loosening and simplification of some aspects of copyright law, a view held by Cable who will say that the current system has failed to "keep pace" with the fast-moving digital economy.

In particular, Hargreaves recommends changing the law to make it legal to copy CDs and DVDs to other digital devices such as MP3 players and computers.

The business secretary is expected to say that "the consequence of the ban on format-shifting [copying discs on to a computer or MP3 player] is simply to make it harder for a British entrepreneur to compete with technology developed in the US and other countries where there's no such ban."

In his 123-page report, Professor Hargreaves says: ""Could it be true that laws designed more than three centuries ago, with the express purpose of creating economic incentives for innovation by protecting creators' rights, are today obstructing innovation and economic growth? The short answer is: yes."

Hargreaves' recommendations include the formation of a Digital Copyright Exchange by the end of 2012 to act as a "one-stop shop" to make it easier to get clearance for the use of copyrighted content.

Published 17.05.11

We all do it – rip (copy) music on our CDs to digital devices such as MP3 players, computers and tablets. Yet strictly speaking doing so is illegal under UK law.

Now the Hargreaves report on intellectual property has recommended changing the law to allow "format shifting" from one digital device to another.

This would leave industry and the Government free to focus on tackling bigger issues such as web piracy.

The report's author, Professor Ian Hargreaves, chair of digital economy at the Cardiff School of Journalism, also suggests the establishment of a new intermediary agency that will act as a swift one-stop shop for clearing the use of copyright content.

The idea of the IP clearing house, or digital exchange – which would be run by rights holders representing sectors including the music, video game and film industries – is to make the UK "the best place in the world to do business in digital content", says Hargreaves.

Music and movie ripping legal in US

Other countries have already amended their copyright laws to make ripping of discs legal for personal use – most notably the US, where the Digital Millenium Copyright Act now has a 'fair use' clause that's enabled American consumers to make copies of CDs, DVDs and Blu-rays.

We'll keep you updated on how this story develops.

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Andy Clough

Andy is Global Brand Director of What Hi-Fi? and has been a technology journalist for 30 years. During that time he has covered everything from VHS and Betamax, MiniDisc and DCC to CDi, Laserdisc and 3D TV, and any number of other formats that have come and gone. He loves nothing better than a good old format war. Andy edited several hi-fi and home cinema magazines before relaunching whathifi.com in 2008 and helping turn it into the global success it is today. When not listening to music or watching TV, he spends far too much of his time reading about cars he can't afford to buy.