/ Technology

It shouldn’t be a crime to rip CDs and DVDs

CD with coloured lights

Last week saw the publication of a long awaited report on the UK’s copyright laws. One of its main recommendations was that the copying of CDs and DVDs for private use should be made legal. Isn’t it about time?

The Hargreaves Report, commissioned by David Cameron and published by Professor Ian Hargreaves, made a series of recommendations for freeing up the UK’s copyright system which, it says, has ‘fallen behind what is needed’.

Among other suggestions, such as letting people make parodies of copyrighted work, the report suggests that the copying of music and video should be lawful if it’s for private purposes.

Ripping media and the law

That sounds like a perfectly sensible idea. So sensible, in fact, that it’s only after a moment or two that you stop and think ‘Hang on, does this mean it’s currently illegal to copy CDs and DVDs for my own use?’

Well amazingly enough, it is. Britain’s outdated laws, first developed as long ago as the 16th century, mean that backing up music, eBooks or videos is illegal. Similarly, ‘ripping’ your music or videos so you can play them on a different device – known as format shifting – is another infringement of copyright.

While no one has actually been hauled off to prison for ripping their purchased music onto their own iPod for their own use, the current law makes that a possibility. This is clearly ridiculous – especially when over 50% of Brits admit that they’ve broken the law in this way.

When we first argued that ripping music shouldn’t be illegal, commenter Tungsten argued the same should be true for video:

‘I already own the film, so why should I buy it a second time just to keep watching it. I don’t need a DVD and I don’t need a new download, so why should I help line the pockets of some studio executive to buy the film again for a second time?!’

Is it any surprise then that, in a survey by Consumer Focus, the UK’s copyright laws were rated as ‘the worst, by far’ in a survey of 16 countries, beating the emerging economies of both Thailand and Argentina to last place?

Copyright laws need to change

It’s clearly time for the law, the music and the film industry to acknowledge that we should be able to format shift the content we’ve paid for. Hopefully the government will listen to Professor Hargreaves and move quickly to bring British law into the 21st century.

I’m not going to hold my breath – as an independent review, this report has no legal weight, meaning there’s no obligation for the government to act on any of its recommendations.

And it’s not even the first time we’ve seen some of these suggestions – the Gowers Review in 2006 also called for format shifting to be legalised but was ignored. Hopefully though, Hargreaves won’t be so easily dismissed.

paul says:
26 May 2011

Bad enough when we had to buy CDs of our old records and DVDs to replace VHS and now Blurays the same, what a total rip off


I’ve known that it is illegal to copy LPs,Tapes, CDs, DVDs. and Blu Ray for years – It is either clearly stated on the DVD disc – or there is copy protection in the DVD etc.

However I have always ignored it as I only copy to change format for my own private use – I will not copy for friends or sell them for profit – or give them away. I buy one version to pay the originator then copy to my format of choice as my needs change.

So I have copied radio broadcasts – records – tapes – CDs – DVDs – Blu ray to whatever is my most convenient format for viewing or listening. It is easy enough to to so if you know what you are doing. So I now have 100s of convenient DVDs containing virtually 1000s of films and programs which are far easier to listen or watch – (A DVD can contain up to 100 or more hrs of listening pleasure). My MP3 player stores over 200 tunes played randomly gives 10 hrs (until the battery gives out) of constant volume listening pleasure (every single tune preselected by me) while driving without the need to retune the radio as it fades so increasing concentration on driving.


Looks like I’ve been a crim since I received a double tape deck with “high speed dubbing” for my birthday many years ago. 🙂

I personally am not surprised that there are still laws like this in England. The government constantly make new laws (didn’t labour create a record amount of new ones?) yet no-one actually considers a review of the existing ones. So effectively what you get is a system that is open to interpretation, meaning that only the most expensive lawyers win the cases. Some justice


Any laws that are widely ignored should be reviewed, and it is long overdue to come up with a system that is fair to users, the companies and performers.

A lot of the problem could have been avoided if music and videos were cheaper. Pop musicians and film stars don’t deserve the vast amounts they are paid and the companies that sell the media are a bit greedy too.


The record/cd industry ruined their own business by keeping cds so expensive that it put off young people from buying them. Fools like me who have hundreds feel that we should be able to copy them to any device for their own use and the copyright law needs urgent modification to allow it.

Sybilmari says:
27 May 2011

With the development of technology there are many changes in the way we live. It is obvious that the way media is used is changing also. We all have to adapt. So should the media industries. They need to get their heads round the problem like any changing business in the 21st century. It should not be up to law enforcement to waste time looking after archaic business practises. There are many laws that need to be scrapped as they can’t viably be enforced.

Cayman Beachbum says:
27 May 2011

I have shelves full of CD’s and I have bought and and downloaded MP3 onto my computer (although I do prefer CD’s).

My car doesn’t have a CD slot anymore just an MP3 / iPod connector. This is how I listen to my music – via an iPod. OK – that means I am breaking the law. Come and get me FAST or whoever.

The law on copyright needs to keep up with technology. Illegal downloads should remain just that – illegal and anyone trying to crack Digital rights software should also be punished.

Peter Ford says:
13 June 2011

You were doing fine until your final sentence. “Anyone trying to crack Digital rights software should also be punished.” To quote Wikipedia, digital ‘rights’ management “… can also restrict users from doing something perfectly legal, such as making backup copies of CDs or DVDs, lending materials out through a library, accessing works in a public domain, or using copyrighted materials for research and education under fair use laws”.

Are you glad that Jon Johansen faced a legal trial for making software that lets me watch my DVDs on my computer?


Isn’t it about time film companies were forced to offer a return and refund policy on proof of purchase of a new version of the same film. You buy the DVD, and within a few months they release the extended version when at the time of the original purchase they was no warning about future versions of the film, then you get the director’s cut then the blu -ray then the box set ….

The only time I’ve been warned was with Lords of the Rings. and something tells me it wasn’t the film companies idea. More likely the directors

And what’s with region encoding, I’m sure a film company will out source their DVD production anywhere in the world to save money, but as a customer you’re hands are tied.

The film companies only have themselves to blame for turning people away from buying multiple copies of the almost the same film. They’ve had it too easy too long.

It’s about time you a rip your own copies of your own legally bought goods.