As some of you might remember, a few months back I wrote about imminent reforms to UK copyright law exceptions, including finally allowing users to create backup copies and ‘personal copies for private use’ of their digital media (such as burning a CD onto your computer, or transferring music to your MP3 player or phone…. yes, up ’til now this wasn’t actually allowed), and all-importantly introducing a parody exception to copyright law in the UK. In March the UK Intellectual property Office (IPO) also issues a guidance paper on copyright exceptions, which can be viewed here. However, these changes were significantly delayed from their original implementation goal of June, as the Parliament continued to debate the exact scope, wording and effects of these changes.
So, four months late, but here nonetheless, the reforms, as of the 1st of October, bring the position of creators of parody, in particular of parody videos heavily borrowing from copyrighted material, more into line with the relatively strong position of creators in the US under the Fair Use doctrine. The UK’s Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Intellectual Property , Baroness Lucy Neville-Rolfe said that “[t]hese changes are going to bring our IP laws into the 21st century. They will mean that the UK IP regime will now be responsive to the modern business environment and more flexible for consumers.” Certainly the reforms regarding private digital copies and backup copies are merely bringing the law into line with the de facto position in reality, as people have been transferring music files to computers, MP3 players and smartphones for years now, blissfully unaware of their status as copyright breachers. You can also read the IPO’s quick run-down of the exceptions at the gov.uk website, broken down into the primary categories;
WIRED.co.uk did a comprehensive write up on the reforms, the subsequent delays, and what this could mean for UK-based consumers, which is well worth a read. As WIRED point out, this doesn’t seem like it will in fact be extended to video games, so once again, the rights of this particular group on digital content consumers still lag behind traditional media consumers and even consumers of other forms of digital content;
It’s noteworthy that video games are not explicitly mentioned as media that it is legal to back up, something that has the potential to create a loophole in the copyright industry’s favour.
If you want to have a closer look at the legislation, you can view the The Copyright and Rights in Performances (Quotation and Parody) Regulations 2014 here. And if you’re in the mood for a bit more copyright-based-procrastination, I’ll leave you with a handy history of copyright and the nasty trend of constantly-increasing copyright terms by CGP Grey (with an especially brilliant explanation of the directions Star Wars could have gone if copyright didn’t get continually increased):
Matt Kamen, “Copying CDs is now legal — but is it too little, too late?”, WIRED, at http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2014-10/01/cd-copying-legal
“Parody copyright laws set to come into effect”, BBC News, Entertainment & Arts, at http://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-29408121
“You Can Now Rip CDs and parody Copyrighted Material! UK Public Confused as to Why This is News!”, The Undisciplined, at https://theundisciplined.com/2014/03/29/you-can-now-rip-cds-and-parody-copyrighted-material-uk-public-confused-as-to-why-this-is-news/