Are you breaking copyright laws?

25 February 2010

Nearly three quarters of people don’t realise they could be breaking the law by copying CDs and DVDs.

New research by watchdog Consumer Focus found just 17% of people know it is illegal to copy a CD or DVD they have bought onto a computer, while 15% don’t know it is also a crime to copy them onto an iPod.

Nearly four in 10 people asked admitted to copying CDs onto their iPod or MP3 player.

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Most copyright law was written at a time when digital technologies did not exist, but the pervasiveness of these new technologies means that these laws now affect millions of UK consumers.

Eight out of 10 (80%) consumers thought that copyright law should be updated now that we have digital technologies, with slightly more (82%) keen to see reforms striking a fair balance between the interests of consumers and artists.

Jill Johnstone, international director at Consumer Focus, says millions of people are regularly breaking the law by copying CDs and DVDs – but are completely unaware they are doing anything wrong.

The watchdog is now calling for copyright laws to be updated. “If the government wants consumers to respect copyright law it has to stop sitting on its hands and bring the law in line with the real world,” Johnstone adds.  

It is calling for ‘fair use right’ exceptions to be introduced. These would allow consumers to make copies of copyrighted work they have purchased provided they are for ‘non-commercial use’. This would include copying music or films to play on a different device  - known as format shifting.

Johnson says this would protect copyright holders’ rights and cause them little or no economic harm.

What the law says

* Copyright law applies to artistic works such as books, films and music.

* Copyright has also been expanded to cover software and databases.

* In UK copyright law the copyright owner has the exclusive right to copy the work, to perform or show the work in public, to distribute copies to the public and to make adaptations of the work.

* Current UK copyright law only provides few exceptions to these exclusive rights, such as, for example, recording a TV programme to watch it at a later time.

* This means that even after consumers have purchased a copyrighted work they do not have the automatic right to copy the work onto another device, such as an iPod, or adapt the work, regardless of whether it is for personal use or non-commercial purposes.

Source: Consumer Direct

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