It is illegal to copy CDs you own to your computer!

David Mellor

David Mellor is CEO and Course Director of Audio Masterclass. David has designed courses in audio education and training since 1986 and is the publisher and principal writer of Record-Producer.com.

Thursday April 28, 2011
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I was reading my favourite TV listings mag, the Radio Times, and had almost come to the end when I saw something that surprised me... an ad for the Brennan JB7.

"What's a Brennan JB7?" I hear you say.

Well it's a CD player with a difference. It has an internal hard disk. The idea is that you can copy up to 5000 CDs into it and save yourself a lot of clutter.

You might further inquire why one would want to do that when you can easily copy as many CDs as you like to your computer. Well the Radio Times is a listings magazine aimed predominantly at an older age group, many of whom find computers scary (and with a certain amount of good reason). I read it myself because I'm practising for later in life :-)

But why am I surprised at seeing this ad?

Well recently the UK's Advertising Standards Authority was asked to adjudicate on whether Brennan's ads were unacceptable because they encouraged readers into actions that are illegal in the UK.

And...

The Advertising Standards Authority upheld the complaint...

"The ASA noted the product was a CD player as well as having a hard disk to store CDs and also record from vinyl and cassette. We also noted, however, it repeatedly made reference to the benefits of the product being able to copy music but did not make clear that it was illegal to do so without the permission of the copyright owner. We considered the overall impression of the ad was such that it encouraged consumers and businesses to copy CDs, vinyl and cassettes. In the absence of prominent explanation, we concluded that the ad misleadingly implied it was acceptable to copy CDs, vinyl and cassettes without the permission of the copyright owner. We also considered that the ad encouraged people to use the advertised product in this way and that, therefore, it incited consumers to break the law. The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 1.10 (Legality) and 3.1 and 3.3 (Misleading advertising)."

Amazingly this is true. It is still illegal in the UK to make any copy of a CD, regardless of whether or not you own a physical copy.

So although it is not illegal to own a Brennan JB7, it is illegal to use it, other than as a straightforward CD player. It is also not illegal to own an iPod, but it is illegal to copy any music to it unless you have the express permission of the copyright owner.

Well if copying CDs you own is illegal, I am very much a lawbreaker in the UK. My iPod is stuffed with music copied from CDs I own. And it's a 120 gigabyte Classic model, not a paltry 16 or 32 GB Nano or Touch! I have copied a whole load of vinyl to it as well. The CDs and records are in my loft.

Brennan has cleverly gotten round the issue in their new ad by complying with the ASA's wishes in stating that copying copyright material is illegal, but they have also added the sentence, "In November, David Cameron [the UK Prime Minister] announced a review of copyright laws 'to see if we can make them fit for the internet age'".

So, although ripping CDs you own is still illegal in the UK, perhaps at some time in the fairly near future we will have laws that are in tune what people actually do in the privacy of their own homes. The alternative is to have a nation of lawbreakers, which surely can't be right.

Anyone else care to admit to breaking the law in this way?

Join the copyright discussion at Brennan

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