DVD and CD ripping to become legal in UK - thanks to Hargreaves Report

A review into the UK's copyright laws has been completed, and it proposes several changes that will bring the country more in line with the digital age.

The report presented by Professor Ian Hargreaves was commissioned by the Prime Minister to address issues that the country's archaic legislation prevents it from competing on a level playing field economically with other nations, most notably the US.

For example, currently in the UK, copyright law prevents you from ripping DVDs, CDs and Blu-ray discs to your computer. And while it is barely enforced, the creation of a digital back-up or MP3 for use in an iPhone, iPad or other mobile device is actually illegal this side of the pond. Therefore, the Hargreaves Report proposes relaxing that stance.

The end result may not mean much for the consumer who has been converting his digital media to file formats for years, but it will effectively legalise the creation of software to do so in the UK. In addition, it has always been a grey area for media storage solution manufacturers, such as Kaleidescape.

Certainly, Professor Hargreaves believes that the proposed change will aid UK businesses: "My recommendations set out how the intellectual property framework can promote innovation and economic growth in the UK economy," he said.

"They are designed to enhance the economic potential of the UK's creative industries and to ensure that the emergence of high technology businesses, especially smaller businesses, in other sectors are not impeded by our IP laws."

The report also proposes that the UK adopts a Digital Copyright Exchange, which will oversee works that are in the public domain, but have no definable owner, or digitally originated material. Organisations can then apply to this new body to use relevant clips, music and text without having to trace the original owner and therefore run the risk of breaking copyright law.

And it wants a relaxation of the rules around parodies and reworkings of original content - essentially 90 per cent of the video clips on YouTube.

However, there will not be a move towards the US fair use policy that protects search engines such as Google. Although the Hargreaves panel agreed that such laws aided Internet innovation, it is currently impossible to enforce as such changes would have to be made across the whole of Europe.

Incidentally, if many of the changes and reforms seem familiar, it's because they were also suggested in the 2006 Gowers Review of Intellectual Property but never implemented. Let's hope there's more luck this time around.