Private Copying Exemption
The Administrative Court has recently ruled in favour of Claimants representing the music industry (with broader implications for anyone who creates or uses copyright works). The effect of the decision is to quash regulations which had been introduced only last autumn, meaning that users can no longer create personal copies of works for private purposes, as had been the case until the introduction of the new regulations on 1 October 2014. The judicial review established that the Government had erred in the way in which it decided to allow private copying without a corresponding levy scheme (e.g. on blank media) to compensate rightsholders, as applies in many other European States.
The reversal applies with effect from 17 July 2015. While the legal status of copies made in the period between October and July is unclear, rightsholders are not expected to pursue private individuals in these circumstances. There had also been some speculation as to whether a reference might be made to the CJEU to clarify the concept of "harm" caused by private copying; while the judge did not consider a reference to be needed at this stage, he has left this open for further discussion if the parties do wish to explore the point.
We have not heard the end of this debate. The Government must now consider whether to re-introduce a private copying exemption legislation (and if so whether it will require a fresh detailed consultation process). It will be interesting to see whether the Government persists in its stated aim of introducing only a private copying exception that will not cause material harm (and therefore not require any compensatory levy scheme). In the meantime, while this decision is a clear victory for rightsholders, it can only have added to consumer uncertainty over UK copyright law.
Our SnIPpets blog covered Mr Justice Green's rulings in this case in more detail: