This week’s news on revised legislation concerning digital content and file transfer is a little bittersweet.
Sweet in that cloud music players will be deemed legal. Users can upload their music collection to a virtual storage system and access their favourite tracks from anywhere with internet connectivity. Handy.
Bitter in that it’s taken this long for the government to formally admonish laws which have been unnecessary and, more significantly, flouted for years.
I think every person who watched the BBC Breakfast report on format shifting (converting legally owned data from one format to another for personal use) was probably a little miffed. On the news that UK citizens could soon upload the contents of their CD to their MP3 player, for example, an audience of millions must have cocked their head to one side to say, in unison, “Really? That’s not already legal?”
No. It isn’t.
It took the Hargreaves review to prompt Vince Cable to reconsider these laws and, since he has, the Business Secretary has been quoted in or interviewed on almost every platform going, possibly to bask in the glow of a job well done. After all, this relaxed approach to format shifting will boost the economy by £8 billion, he claims.
I really don’t see how. If most of the UK failed to realise they were in the wrong, how will spending habits change? I think it’s safe to say that the reason iPod sales have been slowing over the last few months, according to recent reports, is not down to a sudden crisis of conscience across the country. (It’s because smartphones are so in right now, according to Wired.)
One piece of good news to come from the report is that laws against artistic parodies will be far less stringent. It’s just as well we’ll still be able to laugh, eh?