Format shifting made lawful – unless there’s DRM

Changes to UK copyright law will see consumers handed the legal right to make personal copies of digital media – unless its protected by digital rights management.

The Intellectual Property Office has published the government’s final Exceptions to Copyright regulations that are due to come into effect on 1 June, and for the first time consumers would legally be allowed to format-shift music and other digital content.

“The changes make small but important reforms to UK copyright law and aim to end the current situation where minor and reasonable acts of copying which benefit consumers, society and the economy are unlawful,” the IPO said.

To format shift or parody a DVD you’d have to break the DRM to get the original work and that you are not allowed to do so

Effectively, the changes make it lawful for people to burn a CD onto their hard drive, or make a copy for their MP3 player, provided the copies were for personal use.

However, while the changes are seen as a positive step by rights groups, they warned that content would still be locked using DRM, and consumers will not have the right to circumvent protection without express permission from the Secretary of State.

“To format shift or parody a DVD you’d have to break the DRM to get the original work and you are not allowed to do so,” Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group, told PC Pro.

“There’s a mechanism to request to have the content made available to you – it would be up to the Secretary of State to do what he sees as appropriate. It’s something the rights holders insisted on when they wanted DRM to be legislated as legally unbreakable.”

The IPO confirmed that breaking DRM protection remained unlawful. “Media such as DVDs are often protected by anti-copying technology to guard against copyright piracy, and this is protected by law. Copyright owners will still be able to apply this protection,” the IPO said.

“If copy protection is too restrictive, you may raise a complaint with the Secretary of State.”

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