Britain Revamps Copyright Laws, Will Allow 'Format Shifting'

Lora Bentley

Between YouTube's Copyright School and the recent agreement between the Motion Picture Association of America, the Recording Industry Association of America and various big-name Internet Service Providers regarding copyright protection practices, it's obvious that the fight against digital piracy is still alive in the U.S. The same is true in Britain, whose legislators are in the process of revamping the country's copyright laws.


One element of the changes to come may, at first glance, seem contradictory to the overarching goal. The New York Times reported this week that officials intend to legalize "format shifting" for personal use. In other words, it will no longer be illegal for Britons to rip the contents of a CD or DVD they have purchased in order to store or use them on other devices.


But as DLA Piper intellectual property attorney Simon Levine told the NYT, that particular concession was made to facilitate implementation and enforcement of other changes. He said:

If you just tell people, "You can't copy this CD that you bought, for personal use," they're never going to respect you when you tell them it's wrong to copy for others.

On the flip side, though, they do plan to introduce a system under which individual file-sharers who are serial offenders could temporarily lose their Internet access. A proposed fast-track system to block websites known to host infringing material has been tabled for now, but is still a possibility down the road. Despite a recent court decision in which an ISP was ordered to block links to a site that was aware it was hosting infringing material, critics of the site-blocking proposal are wary that it would impede free speech.

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