Yesterday the High Court made a striking decision to reverse a law that had come into practice a mere nine months ago, namely the Copyright and Rights in Performance (Personal Copies for Private Use) Regulations 2014. This law brought in by the UK Government in October 2014 allowed us all to make copies of our music, DVDs and e-books providing it was a back-up, as without it, we would all be breaching copyright laws. Selling or making available those copies to family members, or selling for a profit to third parties always continued to be an offence, however, the aim was to stop a common practice from falling foul of the law. Now that decision has been overturned and the law has reverted back to its original stance before the new Regulations were brought in.
A challenge to the new Regulations was brought by UK Music, the Musicians Union and the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors (BASCA). They argued against the UK government that the government had acted illegally not to consider any compensation scheme for the loss of revenue to artists affected in the industry. They estimated that the loss of revenue to be in the region of £58million a year by this law change. The UK government’s position was that any loss would be completely negligible so this was hardly worth compensating. Unfortunately (or fortunately), depending on which side you fall on, the judge did not agree with the government’s stance.
What does this mean for us all?
It means that you are no longer lawfully be able to make a copy of a CD in any way – this includes making a copy to play in your car. However, the reality is that most people are going to be affected by this.
This change in the law, although seemingly drastic, is unlikely to have a huge impact on those that do copy music. This law change seems to be more of a principle rather than about effectively carrying out enforcement. The main reason for this is that hardly any prosecutions were brought before the law changed, not least because it’s a matter of practicality – if so many people have made copies, how can you police this? The short answer is you can’t.
Let this be a warning however for how the rights of music makers and music owners are continually trying to be balanced. It will be interesting to keep an eye on whether the government tries to do anything about this decision.