Copyright law in the UK has no 'private use' exception. That means that, unlike consumers in France, Germany and many other countries, British consumers have no right to copy their own CDs to their computers. For years, the British music industry has turned a blind eye to this ubiquitous form of copyright infringement.
When vinyl was copied to cassette there was a deterioration in quality that convinced some in the industry that any impact on sales of new music would be manageable. But the advent of digital copying heightened concerns. Alive to these concerns, advocates of a 'private use' right feared that lawsuits would be threatened against consumers.
The BPI gave oral evidence to the House of Commons Select Committee for Culture, Media & Sport yesterday as part of an inquiry into New Media and the Creative Industries.
BPI Chairman Peter Jamieson was quizzed on the fact that the “all rights reserved” nature of British copyright law means that – without specific authorisation – any UK consumer who rips CDs they have bought in order to fill an iPod or other MP3 player is currently guilty of copyright infringement.
“Traditionally the recording industry has turned a blind eye to private copying and has used the strength of the law to pursue commercial pirates,” he said.
He continued: “We believe that we now need to make a clear and public distinction between copying for your own use and copying for dissemination to third parties and make it unequivocally clear to the consumer that if they copy their CDs for their own private use in order to move the music from format to format we will not pursue them.”
“We will not sue you for filling your iPod with music you have bought yourself," he said.
Struan Robertson, a Senior Associate with Pinsent Masons and editor of OUT-LAW.COM, said the announcement could annoy some other countries.
"Under the Copyright Directive, EU member states were given a choice: either allow private copying and give 'fair compensation' to rights holders or ban private copying," he said. "The UK decided to maintain a ban on private copying."
He continued: "The announcement by Peter Jamieson is good news for British consumers and it could help the industry by winning consumer respect. But in countries that allow private copying there is usually a levy on blank media to compensate artists and these countries may wonder what form of 'fair compensation' the UK intends to provide as a substitute."