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George Cole ” George Cole pinpoints hotspots in the world of consumer electronics. E-mail:



he report by Professor Hargreaves on intellectual

for copying rights, but Hargreaves says: “We see no

property (IP) law makes interesting reading for

economic argument for adding an extra charge to these

anyone interested in the issues of IP, copyright

devices in order to authorise reasonable private acts

and copying. There has always been a tension between

which are part of the normal use of devices. Indeed,

technology and content protection: witness the

without that copying, normal use of those devices would

reaction of rights owners when the cassette recorder,

be largely restricted to playing music or films bought

VHS deck, CD recorder, DVD recorder and MP3 player

online. We are not aware of strong evidence of harm to

arrived. In most cases, legal battles were fought to

rights holders done by this kind of private copying in the

try and prevent such products being launched, or

normal course of using digital equipment to play works.

harsh technical limitations were placed on them. I can

There is considerable evidence of overall public benefits

remember when Pioneer launched its first consumer

from consumer use.”

CD recorder – owners had to register their name and

Hargreaves says the

address with the retailer and discs were limited to 60

Government should

minutes recording times, so that an entire audio CD

introduce an exception

couldn’t be copied. Naturally, such ploys failed, and

to allow individuals

today most computers have a built-in CD burner, and

to make copies for

700MB CD-R discs (which can record up to 80 minutes

their own and their

of CD-quality audio), cost pennies.

immediate family’s use

The digitisation of media and the rise of the internet


JUNE 2011

have also made the copying, transferring and sharing


“It is difficult for anyone to understand why it is legal to lend a friend a book, but not a digital music file”

on different media. You can purchase Digital Rights Management (DRM)-

of content a doddle. The rise of portable audio players,

free music files from iTunes and Amazon, but what about

portable media players and multimedia-equipped

movies? If you purchase an iTunes movie, you can put it

smartphones means that millions of us are consuming

into your various iPod devices and up to five computers,

audio and video away from the home. This involves

but you can’t burn it onto a DVD and play it from the disc.

transferring audio and video files onto them, and that

Likewise, the Hollywood studios seem to have abandoned

is, technically, a breach of the law. As the Hargreaves

the Mandatory Managed Copy (MMC) system for Blu-ray

report points out: “Digital technology has enabled use

titles that was designed to allow owners to transfer a high

and reuse of material by private individuals in ways that

definition copy of the movie onto a computer or portable

they do not feel are wrong – such as sharing music tracks

media device. Instead, the movie industry has opted to

with immediate family members, or transferring a track

use the Digital Copy format (first used by DVD titles),

from a CD to play in the car. It is difficult for anyone to

which provides a lower-resolution, DRM-protected digital

understand why it is legal to lend a friend a book, but

movie file for copying or transferring. Meanwhile, the

not a digital music file....The copyright regime cannot be

internet is awash with tools that enable people to rip DVD

considered fit for the digital age when millions of citizens

and Blu-ray titles.

are in daily breach of copyright, simply for shifting a piece of music or video from one device to another.” Hargreaves considered some solutions to the dilemma.

The music and movie industries have rightly been criticised for seeing new technology often as a threat rather than an opportunity - witness the rise of MP3. But

One was to adopt the US Fair Rights legislation, which

you have got to have some sympathy with them. With

permits the copying of content for personal use. But

many of today’s young (and not so young) consumers

introducing such a law into the UK would be difficult,

wondering why they should pay for anything at all (“I can

concludes Hargreaves. Another option would be to

get it for free on the internet”), it does make you fearful for

charge a levy on hardware or blank media in exchange

the future of all media industries.

Profile for Get Connected Magazine

Get Connected: June 2011  

Get Connected: The Magazine of the Electrical Industry

Get Connected: June 2011  

Get Connected: The Magazine of the Electrical Industry