UK.gov loses crucial battle in home-taping war with musicians

Legal challenge to copying music for private use


The British music industry has dealt a significant legal blow to the UK government – after the law was tweaked to allow Brits to copy audio CDs without another penny going to musicians and labels.

Blighty's record industry, unhappy with these changes, today successfully applied [PDF] for a judicial review, meaning a judge will now scrutinize the state of UK copyright law.

The option to allow people to copy legally purchased material for their own personal use – which includes converting audio CDs into MP3s – is open to all EU member states, and most nations have exercised it. However, the EU also stipulates that “fair remuneration” of some sort (it doesn’t say what) should be paid.

The UK government, on the advice of “experts” at its copy-fighting Intellectual Property Office, insisted no compensation is needed, and was prepared to defend that at the High Court in London at the taxpayers' expense. It lost.

The court said the government’s insistence that remuneration was “priced in” was “simply not warranted or justified” by its evidence. The case was brought by the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors (BASCA) and the Musicians Union under the UK Music umbrella group, whose star witness economist Stan Leibowitz devised the "priced in" concept in the 1980s. Leibowitz says the British government had misused his work.

The government has already vowed not to introduce a levy on copying music. An alternative would be to set up a small compensation fund or pool for rights' holders. Just like it does for Shoreditch VCs to splash around Shoreditch. ®

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