Backing up copyrighted content or ripping CDs to media servers or iTunes is technically illegal under UK law, after the High Court overturned government legislation.

Late last year the UK government decided to legalise ripping CDs and other media content, as long as it was for private use, although several music groups were said to be unhappy by this change.

While the UK Intellectual Property Office noted that the changes were in the best interest of consumers, the music groups challenged it in the High Court.

Now the High Court has agreed that the government’s new legislation is unlawful; effectively banning consumers from backing up their content.

TorrentFreak decided to see what this meant for the average consumer and contacted the UK Intellectual Property Office, which had some very clear answers.

“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,” a spokesperson says.

The IPO was keen to point out that copying a CD to an MP3 player would not be permitted, which means backing up that same data to a media server or using iTunes’ ripping feature would be unlawful.

While this is bad news for consumers, under UK law it is also bad news for Apple, which is actively facilitating copyright infringement and could be sued.

Doing automated backups of a computer or storing a song on a private cloud hosting service is also against the law, as is storing music on an external hard drive or NAS.

“…it includes creating back-ups without permission from the copyright holder as this necessarily involves an act of copying,” the Government spokesperson adds.

Due to the number of people technically breaking the law, it’s unlikely that anyone is going to get into trouble, although it does not seem like the government has a plan to make it legal just yet.

“The Government is not aware of any cases of copyright holders having prosecuted individuals for format shifting music solely for their own personal use,” the IPO spokesperson says.

While the government has expressed its displeasure with the High Court’s decision, negotiations with copyright holders have been tricky, with copyright holders demanding a tax on blank CDs and hard drives in exchange for allowing private copying.

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