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Decriminalise iPod users, think-tank tells UK gov't

300-year-old copyright law needs changing

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Ripping your own CDs to transfer the songs they contain for transfer to an iPod, PMP or CD-R to keep in the car should be made legal in the UK, think-tank the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) has told the government. Currently, this activity is illegal under UK law.

The IPPR this weekend said it wants UK copyright law brought up to date, a move that must, it said, included a "private right to copy" to allow owners of legitimate copies of content to listen to or watch that material in whatever form they wish.

Such a so-called 'fair use' exists in US copyright law. Here, fair use is largely limited to quoting passages from a text or soundtrack for academic or review purposes. But copying a DVD to prevent your kids scratching to bits the original is a no-no, for example.

"Millions of Britons copy CDs onto their home computers, breaking copyright laws everyday," said IPPR deputy director Ian Kearns. "British copyright law is out of date with consumer practices and technological progress. Giving people a legal ‘private right to copy’ would allow them to copy their own CDs and DVDs onto their home computers, laptops or phones without breaking the law.

The IPPR also said the government should reject content industry calls to raise the length of time the law protects works from 50 years.

"It is not the music industry’s job to decide what rights consumers have," Kearns said. "That is the job of government."

As the organisation pointed out, while the copyright on the recordings that make up the Beatles first album are due to expire in 2013, the copyright on the songs themselves will last for the length of the band members' lives plus 70 years. In short, while the labels may lose out, the artists themselves won't - they'll get a cut as long as someone releases their work.

"If you walk into a bookshop you can buy a copy of Dickens' Bleak House, or Austen's Pride and Prejudice for about £1.50," said IPPR research fellow Kay Withers. "The copyright in these works has long expired so different publishers can compete to offer them at lower prices. Consumers have benefited from the works being out of protection."

Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown instituted the Gowers Review of Intellectual Property in 2005 to examine the UK’s intellectual property framework. Review chairman Andrew Gowers is due to present his findings before the Pre-Budget Report in November. ®

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