Challenge over copied music ruling

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Published: Monday 27th April 2015 by The News Editor

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A legal challenge has been launched to measures introduced by the Government so that individuals can lawfully copy CDs and other copyright material bought for their own private use.

Music industry organisations are seeking judicial review at London’s High Court, saying the measures do not contain “a fair compensation scheme” for songwriters, musicians and other rights holders who face losses as a result of their copyright being infringed.

The changes came into force last October under the Copyright and Rights in Performances (Personal Copies for Private Use) Regulations 2014.

Prior to October 1, it was unlawful, for example, to rip or copy the contents of a CD onto a laptop, smartphone or MP3 player for personal use, although the format-shifting activity had become commonplace.

The regulations introduced an “exception” into UK copyright law permitting the making of personal copies, as long as they were only for private use.

The legal challenge is being brought by the Musicians’ Union, UK Music and the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors (BASCA) using a legal team led by two QCs, Ian Mill and Tom de la Mare.

UK Music estimates the new regulations, without a compensation scheme, will result in loss of revenues for rights owners in the creative sector of £58 million a year.

Mr Mill told Mr Justice Green in a hearing expected to last three days the law on private copying had been in an unsatisfactory state for decades.

But the problem had been “massively exacerbated” by new digital technology and the internet and the quality and speed of reproduction and copying they allowed.

Mr Mill said the music industry welcomed the Government’s new measures “but objects to the lack of a fair compensation scheme to compensate rights owners for the harm caused – both historically and in the future – by private copying infringements of their rights.”

The music industry QCs are arguing that European law, especially the European Copyright Directive, requires that “a private copying exception must also provide fair compensation” to rights holders.

They are accusing the Government of failing, unlike the majority of other European countries, to provide appropriate compensation.

A QC representing the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills is defending the Government’s stance.

Pushpinder Saini is arguing that no credible evidence emerged during a lengthy consultation process that prejudice to rights holders “would be anything other than minimal”.

The measures adopted by the UK authorities were far more limited in scope than those adopted in other EU member states, Mr Saini says in written submissions to the court.

Under the new regulations only the individual who purchased the original copy of the work, and not others such as a friend or family, is legally allowed to copy it.

Mr Saini says over the years the vast majority of consumers believed private copying to be reasonable and lawful, and the practice was widespread.

Given that was the situation, and no steps were taken to prevent it, it was reasonable to anticipate that private copying was “priced in” to the costs of CDs and DVDs.

Mr Sainik says: “In short the claimant’s case boils down to an opportunistic attempt to obtain a financial benefit which, if the exception had never been introduced, they would never have received.”

But Jo Dipple, c hief executive off UK Music, commented outside court: “UK music businesses operate under copyright law that derives from Europe.

“Whether the Government likes or loathes Europe, it has a duty to adhere to the law.

“We are challenging the Government because we believe it has introduced legislation in an indefensible way.

“On behalf of the UK Music community, I have to ask why it has done this to us.

“Our singers, songwriters, composers and musicians work hard to make a living from the music they make.

“And they make the best music in the world. Of course they deserve fair compensation for their work.”

The hearing continues tomorrow.

Published: Monday 27th April 2015 by The News Editor

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