Given that copying is integral to so many technologies, it is commonplace in the digital age to expect to be able to transfer or backup copies of purchased e-books, photos, music, and videos to remote private storage, whether that be your local hard drive, your online cloud storage, your mobile phone, portable media player, or e-book reader. However, though lawful in many other countries, such copying has been illegal in the UK without permission from the requisite copyright owner. Changes to UK copyright law have been required to permit a consumer who has lawfully bought a copy of a creative work to reproduce that copy for their own private and non-commercial use.

UK Copyright law is governed by the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA). The UK Government is in the process of modernising the framework of copyright and related rights, primarily by amending the CDPA, to allow use of copyright works in certain special circumstances, often referred to as copyright exceptions. This year, three new statutory instruments have already come into force in the UK, amending the CDPA to update exceptions and limitations to the copyright relating to research, education, libraries and archives; disability; and public administration. Two further statutory instruments relating to personal copying for private use, and quotation and parody, are due to come into force later in the year. But what will the changes mean?

One of the changes most likely to affect the everyday use of copyrighted works is the exception relating to personal copying for private use, which will come into force under the Copyright and Rights in Performances (Personal Copies for Private Use) Regulations 2014. Under the new regulation, an individual will be allowed to make personal copies of a copyright work (other than a computer programme), without infringing copyright in the work. The work must be lawfully owned by that individual, and the copies must be made for that individual’s private use. 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.

This means that you will be allowed to copy content you have bought onto any medium or device that you own (such as transferring your music from your hard drive to your portable media player), strictly for your own personal use. The new regulation will allow you to copy material to and from digital storage (including network-attached storage and private online cloud storage) for backup or retrieval, but will not permit sharing copies with others. If you transfer the work to another person, you must destroy the original personal copy, unless you get authorisation from the copyright holder to transfer the work – otherwise, the original copy will become an infringing copy. Similarly, the new regulation provides an equivalent personal copying exception relating to the copying of a recording of a performance, which will no longer infringe the rights in the performance.

The proposed new regulation has been approved by the House of Lords and these new exceptions are now scheduled for entry into force on 01 October 2014. If you have already made a copy of a copyright work (or will make one before 01 October 2014), that copy will be considered as a personal copy of the work, so long as the requirements of being lawfully owned and for private use applied at the time the copy was made. An analogous provision will apply to copies of recordings.

Users of copyright works should remember that this new regulation will be applied strictly to allow personal and private transfer of files, and should not be viewed as carte blanche authority to copy works.