UK High Court ruling effectively outlaws ripping CDs into iTunes, Time Machine, iTunes Match and Apple Music


It appears it’s not just governments who shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near technology – it’s also courts. The UK’s High Court recently overturned legislation permitting citizens to duplicate copyrighted material for their own private use, and TorrentFreak confirmed with the UK Intellectual Property Office that the ruling really is as dumb as it sounds.

“It is now unlawful to make private copies of copyright works you own, without permission from the copyright holder – this includes format shifting from one medium to another,” a spokesperson informed us.

The IPO specifically notes that copying a CD to an MP3 player is not permitted. This means that iTunes’ popular ripping feature, which Apple actively promotes during the software’s installation, is illegal.

The ruling would also effectively outlaw Time Machine (as it copies music files), and the current behaviour of both iTunes Match and Apple Music, each of which copies music to a cloud server. And it’s not just citizens who fall foul of this law – Apple does too … 

Author Ad Placeholder
Will only appear on redesign env.

By actively promoting the ripping of CDs, as well as encouraging uploads of your own music through iTunes Match and Apple Music, the company would be “actively facilitating copyright infringement,” which would make Apple a law-breaker too. That opens the door for copyright owners to hit Apple with hefty damages claims.

There is some small glimmer of sanity amidst the madness: the IPO says that it is unaware of any cases where individuals have faced legal proceedings for copying their own music for personal use. Just the same, it’s a pretty crazy situation where a court ruling turns a sizeable proportion of a country’s population into criminals, merely assuring them that they are unlikely to be prosecuted.

And with Apple having a keen interest in selling iTunes downloads and Apple Music subscriptions, there is even a possibility the company may decide to limit its exposure by removing the CD ripping functionality from a future version of iTunes.

Image: Artur K

FTC: We use income earning auto affiliate links. More.

You’re reading 9to5Mac — experts who break news about Apple and its surrounding ecosystem, day after day. Be sure to check out our homepage for all the latest news, and follow 9to5Mac on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to stay in the loop. Don’t know where to start? Check out our exclusive stories, reviews, how-tos, and subscribe to our YouTube channel


  1. David - 8 years ago

    Won’t that also make Amazon Music Service the same, also where they supply the MP3 to download when purchase the CD and also the Sky Box-Set where can download the Video as well as getting the DVD?

    • Ben Lovejoy - 8 years ago

      Yes indeed. It’s completely nonsensical.

      • Rhynchelma Herion - 8 years ago

        It’s nonsensical. But the judges’ have to interpret the law, or laws as the EU has a say. It is not the judges job to make laws.

  2. proudappleuser - 8 years ago

    Does this have any possibility of getting vetoed or overturned? I’m not falimar with U.K. law.

    • PMZanetti - 8 years ago

      Its meaningless. It will be overturned, which will also be meaningless. No actual human being would ever be prosecuted for such a thing.

      • eswinson - 8 years ago

        While an individual may not be prosecuted, a business could be prevented from providing a service that would violate the “law”

  3. rwanderman - 8 years ago

    Guess I’m not moving to the UK any time soon. I’ve been ripping, mixing, and burning for as long as it’s been possible on a Mac. And, yes, I buy my movies and music and only rip for my own use.

  4. 89p13 - 8 years ago

    Screw the U.K. Courts! It sounds like the MPAA has extended their dirty little hands (and, maybe Pounds Sterling) into the U.K.

    And this is why I bought a lifetime subscription to all the SlySoft Software products. DRM – I fear you not! As far as the courts – Bite Me!

    A Big Step backwards for the U.K and, I fear, the rest of the world if these types of laws are enacted.

  5. Interesting. I wonder how this is in Germany. Because every time a CD-ROM drive is sold, a small share of it’s price goes to a couple of groups that “compensate” copyright holders for the copying probabilities of the device. Same with scanners and xerox copy machines. Also iTunes Match: didn’t Apple negotiate with the music labels? Didn’t they agree to how they are compensated for this?

  6. Apaches911 - 8 years ago

    This does come across as a bit crazy, but you cant question the potential for piracy with the setup the way it is. What stops you borrowing a friends CD and ripping it? I guess the deal that Apple made with the music labels for iTunes match and Apple music handled that issue in some way by compensating them.

    • migsimoes (@migsimoes) - 8 years ago

      and on the 70s and 80s, how many millions K7’s were sold, saved with not allowed music and share to the friends! did someone lost anything? no, there was only winning, you like it then you buys it, without it there was no distribution of the music knowledge, it simple would not exists. My 1500 CDs not even 1% plays on radio, how i would know those bands, those CDs … wake-up and stop blaming the downloaders

      • Apaches911 - 8 years ago

        Is this a reply to my post? If so lay off the crack dude, and maybe read the post!

  7. Jake Becker - 8 years ago

    Here, have some government

  8. Jason Wharton - 8 years ago

    Good luck enforcing that.

  9. patthecarnut - 8 years ago

    This has been happening for YEARS! Why is this just now a problem? Besides, all these apps and services presumably have the “permission of the copyright holder” Courts need to concentrate on laws that actually HELP society.

  10. islandniles - 8 years ago

    I think there’s a bit more context to this story. As far as I recall, it was always illegal to do this in the UK due to outdated copyright laws. The law was changed recently to make the practice legal. However, it was appealed, I think by rights holders about the lack of compensation or something. It’s along those lines, anyway. That’s what has led to the High Court ruling. The legal position has reverted to how it always was, unfortunately.

    • Ben Lovejoy - 8 years ago

      Yes, that’s right – copyright holders were threatening cases over copying for personal use, a use for which the law was never intended, so it was explicitly made legal. This ruling reverses that.

      • kpom1 - 8 years ago

        How is that possible? I thought that the UK High Court, unlike the US Supreme Court, couldn’t overturn laws enacted by the legislature.

  11. Maybe with ripping CD’s, but teh text says “without permission from the copyright holder”, which for Apple Music and iTunes Match anyway, they’d have permission.

    • - 8 years ago


      Copyrights holders (record labels, etc.) have given Apple permission to upload/match individual’s music, so iTunes Match isn’t illegal.

      • Ben Lovejoy - 8 years ago

        “And for the few songs that aren’t, iTunes uploads what it can’t match (which is much faster than uploading your entire music library).”
        To me, that says iTunes Match uploads music to which Apple doesn’t hold rights.

  12. mpias3785 - 8 years ago

    Next they’ll make it illegal to transfer music to your ears if you use hearing aids or a cochlear implant.

  13. hodar0 - 8 years ago

    You know, for the cost of *free* you can visit your local library and check out 10+ CD’s, take them home, rip them into iTunes, and then get the DRM version locked in with iTunes Match and expand your library. Return them in 3-4 hours and grab another batch and repeat. Now, this would be “wrong” and I do not encourage you to do this – but you can.

  14. bigern75 - 8 years ago

    I can’t stop laughing!!! The US courts do some stupid stuff, but this takes the cake.

    • sewollef - 8 years ago

      You sure about that?

      “In New York state, adultery is still a crime.”

      Section 255.17 of the state penal law states, ‘A person is guilty of adultery when he engages in sexual intercourse with another person at a time when he has a living spouse, or the other person has a living spouse. Adultery is a class B misdemeanor. A class B misdemeanor is punishable by up to 90 days in jail or a $500 fine.’

      Still on the statute books.

  15. vxxxcv - 8 years ago

    After over TEN years in U.K. I can say it’s most stupid country on the planet.People don’t work and still got money paid for their pathetic lives by tax payers.Hard working people got everything taken from themselves.Now I can’t copy my music onto my devices….
    Well I don’t have to copy because music these days is absolute crap..
    Another thing…government wants to ban things like iMessage…because they can’t get into it.Absolute crazy with police state getting closer with every second;)

    • sewollef - 8 years ago

      Oh for goodness sake, be serious. If you’re going to comment then please be, a) articulate and understandable; b) not quite so delusional; and c) know what you’re talking about.

    • monty72 - 8 years ago

      I’m amazed you’ve stayed so long

  16. That is just COMPLETE BOLLOCKS!

  17. airmanchairman - 8 years ago

    Not to worry – loopholes will be found through which consumers and other struggling vendors like Spotify, Pandora, Rhapsody, Amazon Music and others can escape infringement, leaving the sole target of this legislation squarely in the courts’ cross-hairs – Apple Inc, and its £200 billion overseas war chest in a holding pattern awaiting re-entry to the USA.

    It’s like sugar to a colony of ravenous ants, the Blood Bank to a nest of vampires, a hill of cocaine to a swarm of junkies… Nothing more to it than sheer lust for the life force of others…

  18. b9bot - 8 years ago

    Except they forgot that we bought that music legally and If I lived in the UK I would be sending a very clear message to there government to overturn this stupidity immediately. This ruling would effect all music services, not just iTunes and is the most backward idiotic stupidity I’ve ever heard.

  19. mpias3785 - 8 years ago

    What will be the practical repercussions? Will iTunes for Great Britain have the CD ripping function removed? Will CDs get copy protection? Will services like iTunes Match be outlawed? Will police come by your home and check your backups? Will it be legal to buy music from the iTunes Store and sync it to another device? What about home sharing?

    I seriously doubt anything will change for the average person. I suspect this will wind up in court again and once people realize how complex and idiotic this is, it will lose once and for all.

  20. cdm283813 - 8 years ago

    Haven’t touched a cd in like 10 years. People still rip music?

  21. benfrankart - 8 years ago

    That is some next level stupid right there. I guess boomboxes that record songs from cd and radio to cassette will also be retroactively outlawed? Let’s not forget the VCRs as well! Throw em all in jail!!

  22. JC  (@itsjohncarl) - 7 years ago

    So it’s now illegal to SYNC your iTunes-purchased songs from your Mac to iPhone?


Avatar for Ben Lovejoy Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

Ben Lovejoy's favorite gear