The BBC reported on Friday that it’s once again illegal in the UK to rip CDs to your computer. This might come as a surprise to you. First, you might not have been aware this was illegal in the first place. Secondly, you might be nonplussed that the pathetic changes to the UK’s fair-use laws have in part already been dialled back, but there you go.
About a year ago, I wrote for Stuff.tv about government changes to personal copying exceptions, and how they didn’t go far enough. My argument was (and is) that while companies should be allowed to weld DRM to released media, individuals should be able to circumvent it for personal use, as long as there’s an expectation of ownership with the purchased media. (In other words, you shouldn’t be able to ‘back-up’ music from Spotify or video from Netflix, but you should be able to make personal copies of CDs, digital books and comics, DVDs and games.)
The key sticking point is plainly noted in the BBC piece:
A judge ruled that the government was wrong legally when it decided not to introduce a compensation scheme for songwriters, musicians and other rights holders who face losses as a result of their copyright being infringed.
UK Music estimated the new regulations, without a compensation scheme, would result in loss of revenues for rights owners in the creative sector of £58m a year.
In other words, because you’re not rebuying again and again, rights owners potentially lose money, and so they want something for nothing. They should somehow be ‘compensated’ for you making personal copies of items, for your own use. I imagine they’re pretty angry about the portable nature of digital files, too, since they can be used across devices and platforms, without you having to rebuy for each new machine. Naturally, everyone ignores the fact people have finite money, and people still very much into music are still buying it, often on physical formats; they’re now just once again being punished for having the audacity of wanting to back-up this content.
At the time of the Stuff piece, given the craven and half-arsed nature of the changes in law, it never occurred to me that we’d go backwards and end up again at the status quo. The BBC adds in its story that it’s “unclear how the change will be enforced”, but then it’s almost never been enforced. What is clear is that once again we have industry representatives effectively punishing those who pay for things. All this does is piss people off. By making it illegal to rip your own CDs to your own computer and legally listen to the music you paid for, these organisations are hastening the decline of income from said purchases, not protecting their artists.