UK Considers Relaxing Copyright Laws

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The U.K. is looking to change copyright laws that make it illegal to copy music for personal use and for libraries to archive material under copyright.

The U.K. Intellectual Property Office, which handles patent and copyright issues, released proposals last week that would amend the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act of 1988. The proposals will be evaluated through April 8.

The proposals were taken from a study released in December 2006, the Gowers Review of Intellectual Property, which recommended a raft of changes to U.K. copyright law.

The U.K. remains one of the few European countries that still prohibits private copying for personal use. Germany and France, as well as the U.S., have exception in their laws to let someone, for example, make MP3s on their computer from a CD they own, or copy a record to a cassette tape.

However, the U.K.'s personal copying law isn't enforced, and most of the British public are unaware of it, according to the Gowers review. The fact that violators go unpunished "adds to the general sense of illegitimacy around copyright law," the review said.

The proposals would create a limited exception for personal copying. Also, libraries would be allowed to legally make archive copies of material for preservation purposes.

The British Library has been in favor of amending some copyright regulations, as it has said parts of its collection are deteriorating, but copyright law prohibits them from making backup copies.

The proposals would also make a new exception for material that parodies something under copyright and leeway for schools conducting distance learning activities.

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