ownership with your head in the cloud

Sometime in the near future the way in which you have access to your media will change significantly; it will pull you away from a legal pitfall which is punishable by considerable remuneration and jail time. All this will change and you won’t even realise that it’s happened.

The Hargreaves report is set to be published this week detailing the need for a change in the currently over stringent copyright laws in the UK. This report was set into motion on the back of a previous report, dubbed 'the google review' stating that technology based companies, such as the modern goliath Google would never have had a chance to start up if they had been founded in the UK due to the current state of copyright regulations. And so in another bid to grasp some modernity and cool for British politics David Cameron commissioned the Hargreaves report. The report itself is an assessment of the way in which both providers and modern citizens of the UK produce and consume media.

Did you know that currently it is illegal for you to rip/copy a CD onto a portable music player such as an ipod? No-one has, as yet, been prosecuted for their blatant spit in the face of one of the UK’s long standing and never to be questioned legal precedents but nonetheless whether you knew it or not copying a CD to your ipod is illegal.

Don’t worry, I wont tell them about that mix tape you made back in the 90’s!

The report is set to unravel this archaic law and several others covering what is deemed as ‘fair use’ of paid for source material. Currently the UK, Ireland and Malta are the only European countries upholding this law and while the political popularity slant is less than thinly veiled it is no doubt a step in the right direction. It is hard enough a task to get consumers away from torrents and downloads and onto actually buying media without tying their hands with single use discs, this has been pre-empted by a few forward thinking DVD manufacturers who have recently begun to provide a portable media version of a film which can be taken straight from the disc itself.

The report will also call for easier release policies for what are known as ‘orphaned works’ which are pieces of music, art, video or photographs which through one form or another have lost links to the owner of their original copyright. This should essentially give many works that have previously been locked in storage unaired a lease of life to the general public. This push will take the UK closer to the more open ‘fair use’ policies of America.

It is interesting how these issues have been absolutely ignored by the general public and have been so blatantly that sites such as youtube and others which stream user driven content would have been shut down due to the wealth of infringed music and video uploaded on a daily basis. It is reminiscent of the case of ‘happy birthday to you’, the song sung hundreds of thousands of times a day and sung too you at least once a year. The copyright to the song is valid until 2016 and has caused many problems for films and such which portray it in its entirety, you and me as everyday people should be paying the copyright owner every time it is sung. We never have!

Whereas ‘happy birthday to you’ does hold its own copyright, the case of our flaunting the law by copying our CDs and DVDs in a way that seems completely logical is a stark tell of how far behind current trends the UK’s copyright laws actually are. It is perfectly natural and reasonable that if you have paid money for any media item it is within your right to ‘use’ it in anyway you deem appropriate, further publication aside. This is what is known as change of format use, copying/ripping a video or album and converting it to watch or listen through an alternate device seems fully within your rights as a consumer. The law is based on the fact that converting the original is technically making a copy and we all know that copying anything either funds terrorism or sets you sailing on the high seas of piracy. (yarr!)

Another reason for this upheaval in policy may be attributed to the rise of mobile devices and their predilection to multitasking. The ability for a modern smartphone to play video and MP3, take photos, browse the net and make calls is almost an expectation coupled with the rise of tablet computing it seems we are consuming and communicating on the move more than ever. The simultaneous glory and downfall of these devices is their size, yes they are portable but hard storage is not yet on par with the respective technological advances in computing power and so their capacities to store masses of data are limited. The answer to this is the use of almost consistent high speed internet access in creating ‘cloud’ based systems.

A ‘cloud’ system is a hosting online storage area accessible through the internet and streamed direct to your device, theoretically, in the future all your documents, music and videos will be stored online and accessed whenever and wherever you wish via an internet connection.
Amazon recently announced their ‘clouddrive’ in the US linked directly to their music player app with each user entitled to 5GB of free storage. (Upgradeable to 20GB when purchasing an album through their mp3 store) Google are set to launch a similar scheme with 'music beta' in the imminent future, both of which are the thematic successors to the now ludicrously popular Spotify. (p.s. if anyone has a spotify premium invite, I’d really like one) 
In legal terms both Google and Amazon are holding their hands up and declaring that content held on their servers is neither their concern nor business, a sort of piracy don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy if you will. If you host pirated material on these sites you do so at your own risk, and I have no doubt that there will be little in terms of privacy related to these services. This will obviously drive countries whose copyright laws do not level out with that of the US to do so in order to protect future cloud system users and aide in leading these technological advances within their own territories.

How we choose to use our newly understood (but probably little cared for) rights and their lingering effects on the various media industries shall remain to be seen once the policy is assessed and its ideas implemented or discarded. Either way it does show, even over the backdrop of political posturing, that the UK is slowly beginning to listen to the voice (or at least the implications of the inaction) of it’s public in terms of modern media usage.

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