In this digital age, most consumers expect to be able to transfer or back up copies of lawfully purchased e-books, photos, music and videos to their remote private storage, whether that be their local hard drive, online cloud storage, mobile phone, e-book reader or portable media player. However, though lawful in many other countries, such copying is currently illegal in the UK without permission from the copyright owner.
Therefore as part of the Government’s aim to modernise the UK’s legal framework of copyright and other related rights, the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (which was passed long before the days of IPods and Kindles!) is being amended to allow for certain copyright exceptions. The exception most likely to have the biggest impact on the everyday use of copyrighted works is the Copyright and Rights in Performances (Personal Copies for Private Use) Regulations 2014 (“Regulations”) which will come into force on 1 October 2014.
Under the Regulations consumers who have legally bought a copy of a creative work will be permitted to reproduce that copy (onto any medium or device that they own) for their own private and non-commercial use. Copying material to and from digital storage (including network-attached storage and private online cloud storage) for backup and retrieval will also be allowed.
The work cannot be a copy that has been borrowed, rented, broadcast or streamed, or a copy which has been obtained by means of a temporary access download.
The Regulations coming into force represents the end of a long and controversial road for the new copyright exception, permitting the making of personal copies by consumers. There were fears that the new exception would deprive copyright holders of rightful income to which they were entitled. The consumer guidance accompanying the Regulations are at pains to emphasise that it remains illegal for a person to make copies for other people (including family members living in the same house) or give others access to stored copies, and that if a legally purchased copy is sold, back-up copies much be destroyed. Monitoring compliance with the law in this area is clearly going to be difficult.