+44 (0)20 7766 5260

Copy that! New Copyright Laws Affect Music Downloads

Copy that! New Copyright Laws Affect Music Downloads

Published: 10 May 2014

The UK government has issued final legislation covering changes to copyright law, in particular updating the exceptions to copyright infringement.

These changes, set out in detail on the UK Intellectual Property Office website at http://www.ipo.gov.uk/types/hargreaves/hargreaves-copyright/hargreaves-copyright-techreview.htm, are, if approved by both Houses of Parliament, due to come into force on 1st June 2014.

Copyright protects literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works, as well as sound recordings, films, broadcasts and performances. Where you want to use any part of these works, you will generally need the permission of the copyright owner, unless one of the exceptions set out in the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 applies. These legislation proposes changes to these exceptions with the proclaimed aim of making the copyright system more suitable to a digital age.

The main new proposed exceptions are as follows:

Format shifting

Individuals will be allowed to make copies of media they have bought for their own private use, for example copying a CD onto an mp3 player. However this will not entitle them to make copies for other people.

The proposed change also clarifies that it is legal for companies to provide technology which enables individuals to format shift for their own personal use.


The current legislation permits quotation from a copyright work where that is for the purpose of criticism or review. The proposed legislation widens this exception so that provided the use of the quote can be considered fair dealing and the source of the quote is given, such use will be allowed and will not infringe copyright. The concept of fair dealing continues to be flexible. However it seems likely that provided the quote is fairly short and justified by its context, it will be considered fair, while it will be harder to justify longer extracts. This exception could be useful for bloggers and other users of marketing or publishing via social media.

Caricature, parody and pastiche

Most works of caricature, parody and pastiche involve some degree of copying. This new exception will allow the use of someone else’s copyright material for these purposes provided that the use is fair and proportionate. The IPO gives as an example that the use of a couple of lines of a song for use in a parody sketch is likely to be fair and proportionate but considers that the use of the whole song will still continue to require a licence. This could mean that many parodies and sketches will not benefit from the exemption. Furthermore, moral rights, in particular the right to object to derogatory treatment, will still apply, which could mean that this exception is not as clear as intended. Entertainers and comedians will therefore need to careful when relying on this exception.


The proposed legislation makes clear that these exceptions cannot be overridden by contract or other arrangements. Copyright owners may therefore need to review existing contracts to ensure that they comply with this requirement if the legislation is passed.

Research and Private Study

The new legislation envisages that copying of broadcasts, films and sound recordings will be possible without the consent of the copyright holder for non-commercial research and private study. Libraries, universities and similar institutions will be able to offer access to copyright work for private study purposes, enabling students to have greater access to works to further their research. However, the copying must be reasonable, fair and proportionate to the purpose of the research.

Text and data mining

This exception permits computer-based analysis for non-commercial research without the need for specific permission from the copyright holder, as long as the researchers have the right to access the work in question.

Other exceptions concern copying by libraries, accessible formats for the disabled and public administration, as well as further exceptions for teaching and educational institutions.

The proposed legislation aims to clarify when certain acts will not constitute copyright infringement, in particular in the new digital age.

However, the scope of some of the exceptions is not clear, in particular what might amount to fair and proportionate use, so individuals and businesses wanting to take advantage of these exceptions are advised to err on the side of caution until more guidance is available. Using less rather than more is prudent.

For further information on trade marks and other intellectual property matters, please contact Tudor Alexander, who heads up our Commercial Department.

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.