updated 04:05 pm EDT, Tue August 2, 2011
Leak has UK government ready to allow disc rips
The UK will finally greenlight a fair use policy for media, insiders in the government disclosed Tuesday. Business Secretary Vince Cable is believed to be accepting the results of a review of British copyright by Professor Ian Hargreaves and should clear format shifting for personal use in an announcement on Wednesday. The proposed legal changes that Reuters saw will make legal to rip a CD, DVD, or any other format for the sake of making it usable, such as loading up an iPhone from iTunes.
The step wouldn't let users make files public without consent, such as on a file sharing network, but it would ease the implementation of cloud music services like Google Music or iTunes Match. An extra condition in the terms is also legalizing parody without consent and should allow more comedy despite the UK's notoriously sensitive libel laws.
Talk of a central copyright exchange for simplifying licensing deals is an unknown and may not make the Wednesday findings, if at all.
UK government officials have always taken a light approach to enforcing laws against disc ripping or other personal copying but have never gone so far as to legalize them. Labels and studios have often been hesitant about official recognition, both out of concerns a law might unintentionally endorse piracy but also out of a reluctance to discourage a second sale from a digital store.
Concerns of the sort nearly got companies in legal trouble in the US a decade ago. Apple's "rip, mix, burn" ad campaign and iTunes strategy initially raised the hackles of labels that incorrectly interpreted CD ripping as widescale copying when Apple had actually intended just listening on iTunes as well as personal mix CDs. The issues were eventually smoothed out but didn't translate over to the UK, even though much of Europe sanctioned the practice earlier.