Thanks to ORG supporters copyright takes a great leap forward into the 21st century

This is a big victory for ORG. We’ve long argued that UK copyright law wasn’t fit for the digital age and this is a big step in the right direction.

The new laws will finally give us the right to parody and legalise personal copying of our digital media. We’re also seeing important changes allowing non-commercial research to carry out text and data mining.

The laws should come into force on 1st June but we’re not done yet. MPs and Peers first have to approve them. We’ll let you know when the debates and votes are as soon as we find out.

It’s taken a lot of work to get to this point.

Back in February 2011 we made an important submission to Professor Ian Hargreaves’ Review of Intellectual Property. Professor Hargreaves then published recommendations on copyright that the Government accepted and were the basis of the changes that they published today.

Despite promising to bring the changes in, the Government were very slow to make the reforms. In November last year ORG wrote to them urging them to get a move on. Lord Younger replied in December promising them “in the New Year” to come into force this April.

But again, the reforms were slow in coming. So over the last week ORG supporters sent over 350 unique emails to Vince Cable and Lord Younger demanding that they publish the changes to copyright.

It’s been a long fight and we’re nearly there. We now need to make sure MPs and Peers back the laws so we can finally get on with making parodies and transferring our CDs onto MP3 players without breaking the law!

We’ll do a fuller write-up of the changes in the next few days but here’s a quick summary of the two new copyright exceptions that we campaigned for over the last week.

The parody exception is fairly simple. The draft law itself is only two pages long! It says that using a work “for the purposes of caricature, parody or pastiche does not infringe copyright in the work.” It also makes clear that contracts can’t be written to make using a work for parodic purposes an infringement of copyright.

Personal copies for private use
The personal copies exception is a bit more complicated. It will finally allow you to make back up copies of music, films or ebooks you have purchased or been gifted. That doesn’t include computer programmes though. You can also convert your files to another file format or to play on a different device. And you can make personal copies of your files in the cloud.

There are limitations on the copying. For example, you cannot pass these copies or the original files on to another person. And you can’t make any commercial gains from making the copies either.

The new legislation brings in restrictions on rightsholders or vendors imposing technical or contractual measures to stop you from making private copies. This is one area where we’ll be looking for greater clarity on how to interpret the new law.