Late last year the UK Government legalized copying for private use, a practice which many citizens already believed to be legal.
However, until last October, anyone who transferred music from a purchased CD to an MP3 player was committing an offense.
The change was “in the best interest” of consumers, the Government reasoned, but several music industry organizations disagreed.
In November the Musicians’ Union (MU), the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors (BASCA) and UK Music applied for a judicial review of the new legislation.
While the groups are not against private copying exceptions, they disagreed with the Government’s conclusion that the change would cause no financial harm to the music industry.
Instead of keeping copies free, they suggested that a tax should be applied to blank media including blank CDs, hard drives, memory sticks and other blank media. This money would then be shared among rightsholders, a mechanism already operating in other European countries.
Today the High Court largely agreed with the music industry groups. The Government’s conclusion that copyright holders will not suffer any significant harm was based on inadequate evidence, Mr Justice Green ruled.
“In conclusion, the decision to introduce section 28B [private copying] in the absence of a compensation mechanism is unlawful,” the Judge writes.
The Judge didn’t agree with all claims from the music groups. For example, he rejected the allegation that the Government had unlawfully predetermined the outcome of the private copying consultation.
Nonetheless, the application for a judicial review succeeded meaning that the private copying exceptions are now deemed unlawful. As a result, the Government will likely have to amend the legislation, which took roughly half a decade to implement.
The UK music groups are happy with the outcome and are eager to discuss possible changes with lawmakers.
“The High Court agreed with us that Government acted unlawfully. It is vitally important that fairness for songwriters, composers and performers is written into the law,” UK Music CEO Jo Dipple commented on the ruling.
“Changes to copyright law that affect such a vital part of the creative economy, which supports one in twelve jobs, must only be introduced if there is a robust evidential basis for doing so,” Dipple added.
The High Court scheduled a new hearing next month to decide what action should be taken in response to the judgment, including whether the private copying exceptions should be scrapped from law.