Making Personal Copies of Your CDs, MP3s Ruled Illegal in the U.K.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs gestures as he announces Apple 'iTunes' Music Store in the UK

Apple CEO Steve Jobs gestures as he announces Apple 'iTunes' Music Store in the UK, France and Germany 15 June, 2004 at a press release party in London. 

Looking to burn a CD to iTunes for your MP3-listening pleasure? If you’re in the U.K., and that disc contains copyrighted material, that would be an actual crime.

The High Court has overturned legislation that only recently made it legal to transfer copyrighted music and other content for private use. The exemptions for non-commercial copying were approved late last year, but rights holders complained of possible loss of income and the court struck down the law. The U.K. Intellectual Property Office explained the move in a statement to TorrentFreak.

"It is now unlawful to make private copies of copyright works you own, without permission from the copyright holder,” the spokesperson said. “This includes format shifting from one medium to another.”

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Shifting content from one medium (CD) to another (MP3 player) is one of iTunes’ core functions, and one that it explicitly promotes when a consumer downloads the application. “Import your favorite CDs with just one click,” Apple touts during the iTunes installation. 

The restrictions cover other kinds of conversions as well, like transferring one of your dusty VHS tapes to DVD, or burning a vinyl album to MP3.

Perhaps more relevant for today’s modern listener, TorrentFreak also notes that the law prohibits the auto-backup or storing of copyrighted content onto a private cloud hosting service. Like the CD-burning issue, saving music on the cloud would first have to be approved by the rights holder — a daunting task. 

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One possible solution: artists and labels could just issue a blanket consent decree to fans (though it’s unclear how that would work). More than likely, listeners will just continue to ignore the law and, as before, get away with it.

In response to the High Court’s decision, the Government called the law “complex” and said individuals don't have to worry about getting visits from the bobbies any time soon.

"As this is a complex area of law, the Government is carefully considering the implications of the ruling and the available options, before deciding any future course of action," a government spokesperson said. "The Government is not aware of any cases of copyright holders having prosecuted individuals for format shifting music solely for their own personal use."