UK format shifting and parody copyright laws come into force

By EDRi · October 8, 2014

On 1 October 2014, new copyright regulations adding exceptions for personal copying, parody, and quotation came into force in the UK.

The personal copying exception allows copying of purchased media for private use. This includes format shifting and backups. The exception doesn’t cover making copies for friends, family or making copies of media you do not own or have acquired without the copyright holder’s permission. You can store personal copies on any device you own but you can’t legally give other people access to copies you make. The legislation allows individuals to apply to the Secretary of State if they want to remove the Digital Rights Management (DRM) access control, but this kind of provision – which already existed in UK law – has never been properly tested.

The exception has generated a lot of discussion because it does not involve a compensation scheme for rights holders. European copyright law has provisions for member states to implement private copy exceptions, but it adds that rights holders should be compensated for any losses. In many countries this takes the shape of a “blank media tax”, a levy on media such as CDs and hard drives. The UK government has argued that the exception is framed in very narrow terms, and private copy is already happening anyway and built into existing pricing structures. Therefore no additional harms to rights holders will arise that would require compensation. Predictably, rights holders do not agree and it is possible the exception will be challenged.

The new parody exception allows people to use copyright material without permission from the owner. But the exception is framed under the narrow terms of “fair dealing”, which complicates the use of materials where it is hard not to ”reproduce a substantial part”, such as images. The moral rights of the author – however narrow they may be in UK law – are unaffected.

The Intellectual Property Office, an official government body, gives these examples of how the exception could be used. “A comedian may use a few lines from a film or song for a parody sketch; a cartoonist may reference a well known artwork or illustration for a caricature; an artist may use small fragments from a range of films to compose a larger pastiche artwork.”

Major reform of intellectual property comes into force (30.09.2014)

Exceptions to copyright

Victory: format shifting and parody clear last hurdle (30.06.2014)

The Copyright and Rights in Performances (Quotation and Parody) Regulations 2014

The Copyright and Rights in Performances (Personal Copies for Private Use) Regulations 2014

(Contribution by Ed Paton-Williams and Javier Ruiz, EDRi-member Open Rights Group, UK)