Monday, 31 March 2014

DRM & Copyright

What do you mean it's illegal?

From June 1st it will become *legal* to rip your CDs in the UK.

"What?", I hear you say, "I didn't know it wasn't"

Yeah, that's a common thing I hear because it's an unjust law that nobody pays any attention to. Most see that if you can freely import music into iTunes (or similar) then how can it be illegal. Somehow the music industry managed to sneak that by us. They assumed we'd just roll over and re-buy our content again using whatever download service our phones or music players supported.

Essentially they scared our governments into accepting these measures to protect what they called a fragile economy. Completely ignoring the fact that if they produced a good product at a reasonable price then people would buy it. On top of that they introduced Digital Rights Management (DRM) stopping the consumer from choosing how they used the contents they'd purchased, in addition making it technically impossible (or at most difficult) to make a fair copy.

Anyone investing any time breaching these measures is then clearly a pirate!

Times they are a changing

It's all part of our broken Copyright and Patent system which has now been investigated in the Hargreaves report, and this has identified a number of small reforms. The Intellectual Property Office recently made the following statement..

"The changes make small but important reforms to UK copyright law and aim to end the current situation where minor and reasonable acts of copying which benefit consumers, society and the economy are unlawful"

..And this to include all digital formats, not just music CDs. So the days of device lock-in might be numbered. So all that stuff you bought on your kindle, why not "format shift" it so that any digital e-reader can open it?

This includes DVDs and Bluray discs which is also currently encumbered with strong DRM, so in practice I'm not sure how that's going to work. The changes excludes Computer Software, but it's unclear how things like games could ever be copied to another format that you might own, but I for one would like to make a backup copy of any discs I own so it seems lacking.

Back to Reality

I can't see any time soon that we'll be seeing video discs that don't have DRM and content region restrictions. It's going to take a bigger change in the law before that happens because big business just doesn't want to let the genie out of the bottle. But it's like the blocking of the Pirate Bay web site, it won't stop the small percentage of people from obtaining content via illegal methods, but we all suffer in the mean time!


  1. So this applies to DVDs? As with music I've been ripping those so that I have a copy for easy access and as a backup. I have a number of old CDRs that I can no longer read. I don't know whether it's because the surface doesn't last many years or whether the technology has changed but it's made me paranoid about keeping things on physical media.

    Does this new ruling apply to digital downloads? I want to un-DRM movies I've bought via iTunes. Again for fair reasons.

  2. The spirit of the change says that it should apply to all, but there are exclusions, one being computer software and another being content protected by DRM.

    Check this article for more details...

    It seems the content owners wanted DRM to be legally unbreakable, which kinda makes this change only a small win for consumers. While these companies can add DRM how and where they please then it seems we'll always be restricted in some way of other.

    The best advice I can give is to not buy content with DRM on it, or just carry on doing what you were doing before. I think the market's switching towards all-you-can-eat with fixed monthly payment anyway. Who wants to own stacks and stacks of DVDs these days?