The UK Government have backed proposals to amend UK copyright law in order to bring it up to date with the use of modern technology. One of the most noted areas for overhaul is that of "format shifting". Although millions of people currently do so, it is illegal to change content from CDs and DVDs into a different format, for example, transferring a CD onto an MP3 player. This means that the majority of the music listening UK population are currently breaking the law, most likely, without even realising.
The law is, amongst other things, to be amended in order to make "format shifting" legal. Where an individual has lawfully purchased copyright works, they may change the format of the work provided that it is for personal use or the use of immediate family. This practice is already legal in the majority of European countries.
Individuals will not, however, be able to engage in file-sharing over the internet without permission from the copyright owner. Such action is not for personal use and will therefore still be illegal.
The proposal for change was initiated by a review of UK copyright law carried out earlier this year by Professor Hargreaves, the purpose of which was to identify any legislation that was ineffective as a result of developments in technology. The review revealed that changes to the law could encourage innovation and therefore be hugely beneficial for the economy. For example, the changes will allow companies, such as Amazon, to sell online storage systems. Individuals will be able to pay a fee to back-up their music and films in case they lose their computer or MP3 player.
Arguments have been made that although the proposed change will update an ineffective law, it will not address real copyright issues, for example, illegal downloading. Whilst this may be true, surely this is an argument for another day and catching up with current technology is a necessary first step.