15th October 2014

Changes to UK Copyright Law

Recent changes

Following on from the UK government’s acceptance of the Hargreaves report (which we commented on in August 2011), the proposed changes are now part of UK law.

On the whole the changes are very welcome as they bring the legislation more in line with accepted practice (it de-criminalises a lot of acts that are considered ‘fair’ by the majority), and also brings the UK legislation closer to the consensus view of other nations.

What has changed, and how does it affect you?

Format shifting and back up:

Individuals can now legally make private copies of media they have bought, for the purpose of back up and format shifting; for example converting CD to MP3 files so that it can be played on an MP3 player, or streaming material you own to your own personal network attached device.

For a long time music publishers in particular have stated that they see format shifting as ‘fair use’ and would not pursue claims against people for this reason. The law now makes this official.


The law now allows limited use of copyright works for the purpose of caricature, parody or pastiche provided the use is ‘fair and proportionate’

As an example, a show like The Simpsons™ often has episodes that closely mimic the plot and characters from famous books, films, etc. This type of thing is permitted under US law, but until now probably would have been a cause for valid complaint if produced in the UK.


The provisions for news reporting, criticism and review have now been extended to quotations in general. So there is now greater freedom to quote from a copyright work as long as it falls under the new terms of fair dealing (i.e. no more than is strictly necessary to make the point and the source is acknowledged).

Further reading

For full details of all the recent changes and how they effect you, please visit https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/changes-to-copyright-law.