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Backing up your own music now illegal for Brits, and Apple Music terms may need to change


Back in the summer, the UK’s High Court overturned legislation allowing citizens to duplicate copyrighted material for personal use. The British government has now accepted this ruling, meaning that the private-copying exception to anti-piracy laws no longer applies – and the government will not attempt to reintroduce it.

This means that we’re back where we started: doing something as simple as ripping a CD, backing-up your music to Time Machine or uploading it to a cloud service is once more illegal, reports copyright blog 1709.

So where does this leave ordinary users in the UK? Clearly some will have been unaware of the introduction of the exception last year, and possibly a larger minority will have been unaware of the rescinding of the exception, so they will no doubt continue to format shift their personally owned music and store tracks on the cloud in blissful ignorance that that is not legal in most cases.

It also means that Apple may need to change the terms of both iTunes Match and Apple Music in the UK.

Operators of cloud services may face pressure to amend their terms of service to reflect the new status quo, and some streaming services may be forced to tighten up their procedures to prevent users from creating multiple copies of the same download.

Yep, technically you can’t have the same music on your iPhone and Mac …

It seems unlikely that anyone will actually enforce the law, but these days, who knows. Just as plastic bags come with warnings that they should be kept out of the hands of infants, technology should come with a warning that it should be kept out of the hands of governments.

Via Gizmodo

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  1. joshdoremus - 7 years ago

    It will just force more people to buy their music from iTunes like services. Probably good news for Apple.

    • Ben Lovejoy - 7 years ago

      Still illegal to do a Time Machine backup of the Mac containing your music, or to have the same music on two devices, though …

      • po8crg - 7 years ago

        Not illegal if you have a licence to do so, and the iTunes licence either does already allow you to do that, or will be amended to allow you to do that.

      • Ben Lovejoy - 7 years ago

        It doesn’t matter what Apple says you can do: it can’t override the law of the land.

      • po8crg - 7 years ago

        The law says you can’t back up someone else’s copyrighted content without their permission. If they give you that permission (which is what the iTunes license does) then you’re not breaking the law.

      • Not quite so cut and dry.This is going to be a lot more complicated and as usual the law-makers in the UK have not done due-dilligence in thinking through the implications of the wording of their tech-related laws. Apple’s licensing terms provides music on multiple devices for one fixed price – you’re not buying a single track and copying it, you’re buying one track per device you own, even if you don’t necessarily put any particular track on any particular device at the time of purchase or at the same time as another device.

      • Ben Lovejoy - 7 years ago

        I think that would, if it came to it, be hard to argue: you are paying a single fee for the right to have the same music available on any of your devices.

    • dcperin - 7 years ago

      Problem: You’d have to have a different AppleID each time you bought the same song. Apple won’t let you pay for the same song twice… It will just show the iCloud logo beside the already purchased song.

  2. A Dimension Of Mind - 7 years ago

    So the government can’t understand the idiocy of this simple issue, and yet expect us to trust them on cyberwarfare, when making a backup is fundamentally alien to them. Wow.

  3. PhilBoogie - 7 years ago

    “Via Gizmodo”

    Wow, didn’t expect for that site to still be alive.

  4. Peter Cope - 7 years ago

    Just shows up the idiocy of our lawmakers here who have not a single clue about technology. But they are well qualified in Latin, Classical Art and Sociology. When will we get politicians (a) that we deserve and (b) that have a background that relates to the 21st century world?

  5. Victor (@torrent82) - 7 years ago

    This just shows that the people running the country are a bunch of old farts who are still stuck in the 1950s where the black and white TV and the radio were considered state of the art technological advancements.
    The UK is starting to look a lot like China lately. First they restrict adult websites and have you humiliate yourself asking for the restriction to be lifted, then they want to ban iMessage and the like because they can’t monitor them, now this!
    Keep voting for them and soon enough they’ll have cameras in our homes so that they can watch us taking a dump “for our safety”…

  6. jmiko2015 - 7 years ago

    Really “unexpected” by a government that’s stuck in 11th century.

  7. MartinTurner - 7 years ago

    The situation is not quite as described. The sellers of music can set any terms and conditions they want. What the High Court has ruled is that exception allowing anyone to do it for anything they own is not lawful. Terms and conditions agreed at the time of purchase therefore remain in force. Likewise, as with all copyright, explicit written consent to copy and/or make backups can always be provided by the copyright owner, if they wish to do this.

    Essentially, it’s back in the hands of the music business. They can i) leave things as they are, which is to retain the right of copyright but to do nothing about casual infringement, ii) seek to sue people (under civil law) who violate the copyright or iii) explicitly set out in what circumstances they permit copying (as Apple already does in its T&Cs).

    • Ben Lovejoy - 7 years ago

      Yes, but the copyright owners are the labels, not Apple. Nothing Apple puts in its own terms changes the position with respect to the labels unless the labels agree to it.

      • MartinTurner - 7 years ago

        The copyright owners have done their own deal with Apple. This is not changed by this ruling. The ruling affects a government-introduced exception to copyright law which didn’t affect Apple anyway — Apple’s terms and conditions predated the exception, and were already negotiated with the copyright holders.

        Really, this is a storm in a tea cup.

  8. 89p13 - 7 years ago

    Ben – The smart British Barrister will argue that since you are only paying a “licensing fee” for any physical-based music you’ve paid for, if that media becomes damaged, the licensor has the obligation to replace that physical media at a small and reasonable cost. It could also be argued that since you’ve paid a licensing fee for say a Vinyl album – and that album becomes superseded by a new type of physical media, the licensor has an obligation to provide the same material on a the newer media – albeit with a small charge for the duplication and media costs.

    In reality this means – You purchased the rights to play Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of The Moon on Vinyl in 1977. Now you want it on a CD – You’ve already paid to license the content as well as the cost of the physical media – all you should have to pay for is the cost of the CD media and a small duplication and reproduction cost of that same media.

    That argument could be made – but it would have to be well researched and vetted. This was the basis of a paper I wrote in college and my law professor said it was a very interesting argument.



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!

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