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Musicians Score Crucial ‘Private Use’ Copyright Victory

In a landmark victory for music industry organisations which will resound throughout Europe, the High Court has declared unlawful the Government’s decision to create an exception to copyright protection based upon personal private use.

The organisations objected when the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills decided to introduce a new section to the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. The change in the law would mean that any person who legitimately acquired copyright content, whether music, films or books, could copy that work for his own personal use without infringing copyright.

Members of the public would henceforward be permitted to copy content onto other formats, or to store it in the cloud, provided that it was for private, non-commercial, use. Copying such content and giving it to family, friends or colleagues would, however, continue to be an infringement of copyright.

In overturning the Secretary of State’s decision, the Court acknowledged that the issue was one of Europe-wide importance. It found that the minister’s conclusion that the new law would cause minimal or zero harm to copyright holders was simply not justified on the evidence. Issues relating to the appropriate relief to be granted in the light of the Court’s decision were left over for further argument.