As reported in the IMPACT legal blog and elsewhere, the UK government has launched a consultation on copyright exceptions. Perhaps unknown to many people, it is currently illegal in the UK to copy works, such as music and video, from format to format, device to device, unless explicitly permitted by the licence. Although many millions of people have probably copied music from CDs to their computer or music player, or from their computer to a CD to listen to in their car, this is usually illegal.
The proposals being consulted about, however, include the idea that consumers should be able to "make a copy of a work they legally own, so that they can make the work accessible in another format for playback on a device in their lawful possession". The aim of this exception would be to permit "format shifting", the "copying of legitimately owned works to different formats for use on different devices". The full consultation document is available here.
This seems to me to be one of the most immediately sensible and non-controversial things the government could do in the field of copyright at present.
But, restrictive DRM technology has been quietly, and not so quietly, weaving its way into people's homes and lives, on devices and in their music and video files. Current DRM technologies physically prohibit the kind of copying being proposed in the consultation, without reference to any national laws. How can these two ideas be reconciled?
Well, it's no secret that I am no fan of DRM, and would love this to signal the demise of such schemes which impose technical restrictions far beyond legal limitations. So, would this kind of DRM under such a new law be illegal? That seems an unknown at present, but even if not it seems unfair to criminalise anyone hacking such a DRM system in order to obtain their legal rights.