Copyright laws ‘in need of reform’

The UK’s outdated copyright laws need to be reformed before they lose all credibility, a consumer watchdog said.

A study by Consumer Focus found three quarters of consumers (73%) do not know what they are legally allowed to copy or record.

Fewer than one in five (17%) knew it was illegal to copy a CD or DVD they had bought on to a computer for their own use, and even fewer (15%) knew it was illegal to copy them to an iPod, the poll found. Nearly four in 10 (38%) of those using either an iPod or MP3 admitted to copying CDs on to their player.

Most copyright law was written before digital technologies existed, but the pervasiveness of the new gadgets meant the laws now affected millions of UK consumers, the watchdog said.  It found 80% of consumers thought copyright law should be updated to encompass digital technology, with slightly more (82%) keen to see reforms striking a fair balance between the interests of consumers and artists.

Consumer Focus international director Jill Johnstone said: “The credibility of UK copyright law has fallen through the floor. Millions of consumers are regularly copying CDs or DVDs and are unaware they are breaching copyright law. “The world has moved on and reform of copyright law is inevitable, but it’s not going to update itself. If the Government wants consumers to respect copyright law they have to stop sitting on their hands and bring the law in line with the real world.”

Consumer Focus said it did not condone the infringement of copyright law and supported the Government’s view that “most people, given a reasonable choice, would prefer not to do wrong or break the law”. The organisation wants to see “fair use right” exceptions introduced that would allow consumers to make copies of copyrighted work they have bought, provided they are for non-commercial use – such as copying CDs or DVDs to play on a different device.

It says fair use rights would protect copyright holders while providing exceptions to copying that cause no or minimal economic harm. Delays to updating UK laws to allow the EU to define non-commercial use would damage the credibility of copyright law further, it added.


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