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BPI lobbies Gowers for a 'private right to copy'

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The UK's main recording industry body wants to authorise UK music buyers to copy CDs for personal use. The British Phonographic Industry (BPI) has recommended to a government investigation that a private right to copy be created.

"We certainly agree with the line that something needs to be done," Richard Mollet, the BPI's director of public affairs told weekly technology podcast OUT-LAW Radio.

Though the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) has called for a change in UK law to allow people to copy legally bought tracks on to MP3 players, the BPI says no law change would be necessary if it gave permission for the activity.

"Whether one actually changes the law or not is actually a moot point because it is possible to give consumers that permission simply through authorisation from existing rights holders," said Mollet.

Mollet said the BPI had made its views known to the Gowers Review, a Government-commissioned report on copyright law reform due to report its findings this month. It is being conducted by former Financial Times editor Andrew Gowers.

In the UK any copies of music on CDs or from downloads is illegal, which means that people who put music on their MP3 players or computers are breaking the law.

The BPI, which polices copyright theft on behalf of record labels, has already announced that it will not prosecute people for copying music to MP3 players. Mollet told OUT-LAW, though, that the BPI now wants to directly authorise consumers to carry out the activity, and is likely to put the authorisation directly on to CD packaging.

"My understanding of how this would work in practice is that one might need to put something on product and that would be one of the potential problems with going down the authorisation route," he said.

Mollet said that the BPI's stance is not "hard and fast", but that it would be prepared to go down the authorisation route.

Kay Withers was the author of the IPPR's report recommending the establishment of a private right to copy. She disagrees that BPI authorisation would solve the problem. "It's good that the BPI have said they're not going to prosecute but it should be the government deciding what the consumers and citizens rights are, rather than citizens."

The IPPR's report said the fact that no private right to copy exists not only puts many people on the wrong side of the law mostly without them knowing it, but also undermines the public's respect for copyright law in general, and makes serious infringement more likely.

Withers said it is also unfair to consumers. "What the law currently would expect consumers to do just doesn't really seem fair," she said. "Asking someone who buys a CD in HMV to then have to go to a digital music store and buy that content again so that they can listen to it both on their hi-fi and on their mp3 player just doesn't seem fair."

See: OUT-LAW Radio

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