An update to UK copyright law means that from June 1, 2014 it will no longer be illegal to make copies of CDs—or e-books or any other media—that you have bought for personal use.
According to current law, it is actually illegal to copy a CD for backup or to play the music on an MP3 player or mobile. It's also illegal to format shift an e-book you've bought from one device to another. Under new exceptions to copyright law, first initiated by the 2011 Hargreaves Review, people will be no longer be committing a crime by format shifting copies of CDs, e-books, or films they have bought.
It will remain, however, illegal to make copies at home for friends and family. (So no passing on those ripped CDs, people!) If you want to give the CD to a loved one, you should make sure you delete any personal copies you have made from it, explains the Intellectual Property Office (IPO).
Intriguingly, the IPO says that if anti-copying technology (DRM) is too restrictive, consumers can raise a complaint with the Secretary of State. This has been part of the law for more than 25 years (in Section 296ZE of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988), but with the new exceptions, there may be more cause for complaint. If a user complains that they cannot benefit from the exception due to a "technological measure" (DRM), the Secretary of State is empowered to "give directions to copyright owners to enable the complainant to benefit from it". That is to say, a movie studio may be forced to make it easier for individuals to copy their DVDs for personal use.
The IPO stresses that before the Secretary of State would take such action, it would first "seek to establish whether the parties have reached any voluntary agreements permitting the complainant to rely on the exception". However, if alternative formats were already available on "reasonable commercial terms," it would influence the Secretary of State's decision.
In another exception, it will no longer be illegal to use a quote from another person's work without permission from the copyright owner. At the moment, this is only legal if done for the purposes of criticism, review, or news reporting. But the law change means that people can use quotations as long as the use is fair (i.e. of a suitably short length).
Similarly, there is an exception for using other people's copyright for caricature, parody, or pastiche—such as a parody music video on YouTube. At the moment, you are supposed to seek permission from the copyright holder to make that jumped-the-shark Gangnam parody. Again, the concept of "fair dealing" is at play here.
Fair dealing is a legal term used to establish whether the use of copyrighted material is lawful or not. Its definition will depend on each case, but it will take into consideration whether the copied work affects the market for the original work and whether the amount of work taken is reasonable and appropriate.
For libraries and museums, changes to copyright law mean that institutions can make digital copies of any works held in their permanent collection for preservation purposes as long as it's "not reasonably practicable" to purchase a replacement.
Non-commercial researchers should also be able to copy copyrighted materials for private study; this includes DVDs, pictures, books, plays, and other artworks. Again, the copying has to be reasonable and proportionate, so this—at least in theory—will rule out students copying a whole film for "research" instead of buying the DVD.
The law reform will allow for data mining of copyright material for non-commercial research, which is also currently illegal without permission from the copyright holder.
You can see all of the reforms and what they mean for UK copyright holders, consumers, and researchers on the IPO's website.