Women in Music 2016

UK Music Industry Wins 'Vitally Important' High Court Case Over Personal Copying

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A traffic policeman in London's East End, circa 1970.

The U.K. music industry has successfully challenged the British Government over changes in copyright legislation that it claims fail to offer fair compensation for musicians, composers and rights holders.

The so-called "private copying exception" became part of U.K. copyright law in October 2014, making it legal for British consumers to create copies of music that they had purchased for personal use, as recommended by the 2011 Hargreaves Review.  

However, a consortium of music industry bodies, comprising the Musicians Union (MU), the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors (BASCA) and umbrella trade body UK Music, objected to the absence of a complimentary mechanism for artists and rights holders and argued that the law contravened EU legislation concerning copyright -- principally the dictate that where a member state provides a copyright exception it must also provide "fair compensation" for rights holders.

Today, the British High Court ruled in the music industry’s favour, with Mr Justice Green agreeing with the claimants’ argument that the implementation of private copying exception was "based on wholly inadequate evidence." As a result, he ordered all parties to return for a second court hearing in July to decide on possible amendments or even the rejection of the legislative add-on.   

"The High Court agreed with us that Government acted unlawfully," said UK Music CEO Jo Dipple in a statement. "It is vitally important that fairness for songwriters, composers and performers is written into the law. My members’ music defines this country. It is only right that Government gives us the standard of legislation our music deserves. We want to work with Government so this can be achieved," she went on to say.

UK Music estimates that the copyright exception and absence of a complimentary mechanism would cost the industry £60 million ($90 million) in lost revenue -- a figure disputed by the British government, which believes that -- unlike other EU counties where levies are charged on MP3 players and music hardware -- no compensation is required.