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CD ripping legalised in copyright law overhaul

UK Business Secretary Vince Cable has declared that the government will be accepting all ten recommendations made in the Hargreaves review, prompting one of the biggest shake-ups in UK intellectual property law in years.

"The Government is focused on boosting growth and the Hargreaves review highlighted the potential to grow the UK economy," Cable claimed in a statement today. "By creating a more open intellectual property system it will allow innovative businesses to develop new products and services which will be able to compete fairly in the UK’s thriving markets for consumer equipment.

"We are accepting the [Hargreaves] recommendations and will now set about reforming the UK's intellectual property systems. Opening up intellectual property laws can deliver real value to the UK economy as well as the creators and consumers," claimed Cable.

"As part of our Plan for Growth, the Government’s broad acceptance of the Hargreaves review will make it easier to use Intellectual Property to create value and growth in the economy and across our society, in ways that are fair to everyone," agreed Chancellor George Osborne during the announcement.

While many of the moves will be of interest only to businesses and academics - such as the planned introduction of an exception to copyright for the purposes of analytical data mining - others will be welcomed by all. Perhaps the biggest - and most overdue - change is to the law regarding private copying of content.

Previously, the act of limited private copying - to shift the format of a music track from an inconvenient physical CD to an MP3 that can be placed on your portable media player or smartphone, for example - was, technically, illegal under the Copyright Act.

While unenforced - to the point where Apple was able to get away with the slogan 'Rip, Mix, Burn' for several advertising campaigns - it left those users wanting to make use of their new digital music players in a legal grey area.

The new exemption will change the law so that it is in line with consumer expectations, and reflects the real-world use of such devices. How broad the exemption will be - and whether it will cover the uploading of such copied content to cloud-based services like Apple's iCloud - is not yet known.

The reforms will also see copying for the purposes of parody - a protected use in the US, but not in the UK - legitimised, a nod to the requests that the UK implement a broader 'fair use' law for the re-use of copyright content without permission in selected scenarios.

Not all of the recommendations reflect relaxed approaches to intellectual property, however. The government has also announced that it is issuing a new Intellectual Property Crime Strategy which details how domestic enforcement of IP theft will be carried out.

"Intellectual property is a key UK export and global trade in IP licenses alone is worth more than £600 billion a year," claimed Minister for Intellectual Property Baroness Wilcox. "UK businesses need to have confidence in the international IP framework so they are able to create and exploit value from their ideas."

That trade in intellectual property will be helped by the founding of a Digital Copyright Exchange, a market place where licences for copyright content can be bought and sold. It's a move which it is believed could add up to £2 billion a year to the UK economy by 2012, and one which represents a large chunk of the alleged £7.9 billion 'potential benefit' that the reforms bring. monitors all leading technology stories and rounds them up to help you save time hunting them down.