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UK music industry wins High Court copyright case against Government

The High Court today ruled against the UK Government in a Judicial Review case brought by the Musicians’ Union (MU), the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors (BASCA) and UK Music.

Published: 19 June 2015 | 12:00 AM Updated: 28 April 2021 | 4:28 PM
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The High Court today ruled against the UK Government in a Judicial Review case brought by the Musicians’ Union (MU), the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors (BASCA) and UK Music.  These three bodies challenged Government’s decision to introduce a private copying exception into UK copyright law, arguing that it was unlawful because it failed to provide fair compensation to rightholders. 

BASCA, MU and UK Music had welcomed a change to UK law which enabled consumers to copy their legally-acquired music for personal and private use.  However, ahead of the introduction of the private copying exception, they consistently alerted Government to the fact that in such circumstances significant harm is caused to rightholders and European law requires fair compensation to be paid.  The High Court agreed with the music industry and found that Government’s decision not to provide fair compensation was based on wholly inadequate evidence – and that Government’s decision was therefore unlawful. 

The High Court’s ruling means that Government will now have to reconsider its position.  BASCA, MU and UK Music remain open to meaningful talks to resolve this issue.

Commenting on the outcome of the case, John Smith MU General Secretary said:

“I am delighted that The High Court has today agreed with us that Government acted unlawfully. The MU has been leading calls for fair compensation to accompany any private copying exception for years now, and today marks a significant step in the right direction.

“It’s a sobering thought that despite the fact that the British music industry is worth £3.8bn GVA and despite the outstanding international reputation for British musicians, more than half of MU members still earn less than £20,000 a year from their profession. We have one of the best music industries in the world. The Government should be making it easier to survive as a musician – not harder. The private copying exception that they had introduced without fair compensation put UK performers at a significant disadvantage, and I’m proud that the MU was part of the team that successfully challenged it.” 

NOTES AND BACKGROUND

The UK Government introduced measures in October 2014 to change the law to enable people to copy copyright material they have lawfully acquired for their own private and personal use, under the ‘Copyright and Rights in Performances (Personal Copies for Private Use) Regulations 2014’.  

The EU Copyright Directive permits Member States such as the UK to introduce such exceptions into domestic law, but on the condition that rightholders receive fair compensation where more than minimal harm is suffered. 

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