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UK music industry pushes for a new tax on CD copying

Matt Brian, @m4tt
11.26.14
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Before October 1st this year, you were probably a criminal. On that day, UK copyright law changed to include a private copying exception that, simply put, means you're allowed to copy media for your own personal use (not distribution, obviously). This is especially important when it comes to music. Although it might be hard to believe, if you've ever ripped a CD and moved the digital copies to an MP3 player or your phone, you were technically committing a crime.

Thus, the private copying exception was introduced to clear the air, and your name. Various music industry-backed organisations in the UK aren't happy about the way it's been implemented, however, and have asked for a judicial review after the government declined to include fair compensation to music-makers, sometimes known as a copyright levy, into the new law.

To achieve this, a coalition formed by The Musicians' Union, The British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors, and UK Music is asking for what it calls a "bad piece of legislation" to be put before a judge at the High Court. It argues that the UK is one of the only European member states that doesn't include levies for private copying, which "damages the musician and composer community" as a result.

If you buy a CD (or vinyl) and want to listen to it on your iPhone, music labels ideally want you to pay out again for the digital version, not rip it to your computer and transfer across. However, the government argued that because its private copying laws are narrower than most European countries, a levy shouldn't be applied in the UK.

Music watchdogs aren't having that, so they're lobbying for songwriters, musicians and other rights holders to get additional kickbacks, which could be deducted from sales of MP3 players, blank CDs and hard drives. The High Court must now determine whether the music industry is being overly greedy or justified in charging for private copyrights. Although, given the low price of music, it's likely that you won't even notice it, whatever the judge(s) decide.

[Image credit: animaux, Flickr]

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