Archive for November, 2011

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY – Search out your old LPs

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY – Search out your old LPs

The recent Hargreaves Review has recommended that format shifting (or making a copy onto a new format for your own use of a copyright work that you have purchased in a different format) should be legalised.

This is because it is no more than allowing by law a practice that the vast majority of our society already exercises, and has done for some time.

Those of you old enough to remember buying those vinyl LPs, with their (sometimes) beautiful covers and sleeve artwork, will recall the debate as to whether to invest in a decent Nakamichi  cassette deck, and spend the extra money on “chrome” (as opposed to “normal”) cassettes, before making a “safety” copy of a newly purchased LP.  Hey, how many times did we take our favourite Led Zep album (IV in my case) to a friend’s party only to find a nasty scratch on “Rock n’Roll” – when the party was over and the hangover had receded?

As the Hargreaves Review says:

“Copying should be lawful where it is for private purposes, or does not damage the underlying aims of copyright…

The UK has chosen not to exercise all of its rights under EU law to permit individuals to shift the format of a piece of music or video for personal use and to make use of copyright material in parody. Nor does the UK allow its great libraries to archive all digital copyright material, with the result that much of it is rotting away. Taking advantage of these EU sanctioned exceptions will bring important cultural as well as economic benefits to the UK. Together, they will help to make copyright law better understood and more acceptable to the public.”

Of course, this will bring a cold sweat of fear to any old school music biz execs, who know only too well that the music industry boom of the 1980’s was propelled largely by the fans of the 60’s and 70’s who bought their favourite albums on CD for a second time – thereby providing a massive windfall profit to the industry (some CDs were some £15 odd, for a piece of plastic that cost pennies to produce, and in respect of which the recording costs had been recouped years before from vinyl sales).

But CDs were sold as being “perfect” and “made to last forever” (the latter being rapidly proven as rubbish by anyone who scratched their CD’s surface or got them wet), so they sold in their millions to music fans who already had paid once for the copyright works, albeit that most people still copied illegally onto cassettes in their millions, before CD players became standard in cars.

Hargreaves is clear on what needs to be done:

“5. Limits to copyright. Government should deliver copyright exceptions at national level to realise all the opportunities within the EU framework, including format shifting, parody, non-commercial research, and library archiving.”

Hargreaves goes on to say:

“The copyright regime cannot be considered fit for the digital age when millions of citizens are in daily breach of copyright, simply for shifting a piece of music or video from one device to another. People are confused about what is allowed and what is not, with the risk that the law falls into disrepute.”

So, look out those vinyl records, it won’t be long before they can be legally copied onto an iPod or CD, at long last.

 

Ian Penman

Partner

New Media Law LLP

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