/ Technology

Copying a CD onto your iPod – are you breaking the law?

Padlock sitting on music CDs

Did you know it’s against the law to copy a CD you’ve bought onto your MP3 player? It’s even illegal to transfer your vinyl record collection into digital files on your PC. Is it time to bring the law into the 21st Century?

Ripping music from your CD onto your iPod is called ‘format shifting’, and it breaks UK copyright law. It’s a law that many think is past its sell-by date, as we do at Which?.

As long ago as 2006, the BPI, which represents the music industry, said it wanted to make it ‘unequivocally clear to the consumer that, if they copy their CDs for their private use in order to move music from format to format, we will not pursue them’.

Updating copyright law

If you did know about this particular law and you abide by it, you’re in the minority. In our survey of 2,106 UK consumers, just over half said they fall foul of this law and a similar proportion had no idea that format shifting was even against the law.

Perhaps more importantly, when told it was against the law, 63% thought they should be able to make a copy of something they legitimately bought so that they can listen to it or watch it in a different format. Four in 10 people also assume that the price paid for copyrighted material includes ‘permission’ to make private copies to another format.

Making format shifting legal

But good news is on the horizon – this unsatisfactory state of affairs is set to change. In 2012, the Government agreed with the recommendation of the Hargreaves Review that making a copy of copyrighted material in a different format should be legal if it’s for private use. The necessary legislation has been drafted and will be presented to Parliament soon, with a view to it becoming law in April 2014.

We’re due to meet the Government to talk about this soon, so we’d like to hear from you. Do you agree that format shifting for private use should be legal?


Of course it should!

And since you’re here, Mark McLaren, can you get involved again in the convo topics for nuisance calls and Sale of Goods Act?

We need market research calls to be opt in only

Call centres and sales companies shouldn’t use multiple names and telephone numbers to make sales and marketing calls

The Sale of Goods Act should be updated with longer warranties


The law should have been changed years ago, and not at a time when many have stopped buying CDs in favour of downloaded music. Clearly it should remain illegal to sell a CD and keep a copy of the music.


I rip any new CD i buy onto my laptop and move it into my Amazon Cloud Player all the time, Just so I can listen to it no matter what laptop/pc I am using at the time.

I admit I didn’t even know I was breaking the law….but no, I wont be stopping.


When Amazon launched that service didn’t they pre load your (and everyone elses) cloud with all the CDs you’d previously brought from them?

Mass floating of the law there then. Tut tut Amazon.

But yes, a change in this law is long overdue, just like so many others. ( e.g. Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, not including multiple unit price promotions (such as three for two)



Yes, you are correct, each time i buy a CD from Amazon they give me the MP3 on my cloud player free.

I hate to admit this, but, I buy albums like “The Very Best Of Heartbeat” and “Heartbeat [3CD Box set]” they don’t give the MP3 of those so I need to rip them myself. Right pain.


I did get excited when amazon emailed me telling me they’d done that, only for me to realise I’d bought all my CDs from play, grrr.

Your music taste in music is safe from comment from me (at least) , as mine is probably odd to you (and everyone else).


I think Amazon manages to legally get around this by saying that when you buy a CD they throw in the MP3 for free – like a “buy one, get one free” supermarket deal. So either Amazon is itself paying the royalty for the MP3 out of the money it takes for the CD, or it has reached a deal with the record label regarding royalties.


What is Which?’s position on books and format shifting of them?


Format shifting should be legalised. I knew it was/is illegal but do it anyway for personal use/backup.

We’re currently copying old VHS music videos to DVD because you can’t purchase them in DVD/BD format. ( If you could and, the price was right, we may well [and have in some cases] re-purchase[d] for the better quality as the old VHS tapes do have some drop-out, but many of these are not available on DVD. Some of those that we have found on DVD/BD are at ridiculous prices, way more than the original VHS price! )

Same for old vinyl records to CD.
Same for any other music/video that you’ve purchased for personal use.

It’s the software you are paying for. You shouldn’t be forced to repay just for different media or, face a possible threat of action when copying for personal use..

Btw. I hate piracy. It is theft. The original performers and producers should be paid for their efforts. But, you shouldn’t have to pay twice when you simply want to replay using different media. After all, I expect they don’t perform twice – once to record to CD and then again to record to mp3 for download!

Additionally, copying gives you the benefit of a back-up should any disaster strike.

As for format shifting books. My personal view: If it’s Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to electronic visual media or automated vocal recording for replay – It should be legal for personal use. If you choose to read aloud and record the audio, again fine, it’s your effort using software you’ve paid for – it should be legal for personal use.

This is one area where the outdated copyright legislation should definitely be revised.