Every once in a while, Jolly Old England reminds us why we got rid of her.
Care for a bit of the burn and rip? Too bad, old chap. It's illegal.
On Wednesday, the UK's High Court overturned a law passed by Parliament that legalized copying digital items you've already paid for onto CDs, DVDs, or backup hard drives. This makes some of the most basic functions of iTunes illegal, as well as the simple act of backing up your computer. The decision covers all copyrighted material, so if you have any games or computer programs that you didn't program yourself, you're a criminal if you protect your computer against a crash.
In short, you can't rip any CDs, you can't make a copy of a movie you legally downloaded, and you can't back up anything on your computer you didn't program yourself. Said the UK's Intellectual Property Office when asked to explain exactly what the High Court's decision meant, “It is now unlawful to make private copies of copyright works you own, without permission from the copyright holder – this includes format shifting from one medium to another."
If you didn't realize making copies of things you paid money for was illegal, you're not alone. Not many Brits did either, and they were ripping music they paid for on iTunes onto CDs willy nilly with the silly belief that paying for music (or movies or any kind of copyrighted media) meant they owned it. Parliament wanted to make the common sense understanding of the law into actual law, so they passed a bill allowing people to copy their own files.
Surprise, surprise, media companies challenged it. It would hurt their revenue, they argued, if people didn't have to buy music, movies, or software over and over and over if they wanted to play it on different machines or if their machine broke. The High Court agreed.
The party that could end up suffering the most is Apple, since they could be held liable for every single person who uses iTunes' CD-burning capability. Which is a lot of people. Like, basically everyone.
Don't worry, though, media companies have a solution: if the government would only be so good as to set up a tax on blank CDs, DVDs and other storage media, they'd be willing to drop their case in exchange for that tax money. In the US, we call that extortion, but I believe the Brits call it "extourtion."
What about America, you ask? Well, obviously we've had our own problems with media groups like the RIAA and MPAA suing people, but their focus is more on sharing files. Currently, there's no explicit ban or endorsement of media shifting (transferring a file between mediums, like an MP3 onto a CD). It's technically illegal, but the RIAA won't prosecute you because they know there's a chance the Supreme Court would end up ruling it technically legal. So, hooray for a sort of default freedom.