THE NEW INTERNET - Special Report; Millions Get (Legally) Wired for Sound

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THE NEW INTERNET - Special Report

Millions get (legally) wired for sound

TIME is finally catching up with the ever-youthful looking Sir Cliff Richard.

The problem is not his looks, but the day is fast approaching when he will lose legal control of his early hits.

Sir Cliff is spearheading a high profile battle to get the copyright term for performers extended from 50 years to 70 years to match the term enjoyed by writers.

His time is almost up for royalties on some of his most popular songs. In 2009, he will stop being paid for his early hits such as Living Doll, released in 1959.

But Sir Cliff has a fight on his hands.

Equally vociferous groups such as Release The Music and its sister organisation, the Open Rights Group, believe iconic hits are as much part of our cultural heritage as Shakespeare and should be shared.

The length of time copyright should exist is only one headache faced by the music, software and film industries. A worse one is the widespread use of cheap high quality digital copying technology.

The popularity of CD ripping and illegal downloading from the internet to fill ubiquitous iPods and MP3 players has cost the industry [pounds sterling]1.1 billion in lost sales in three years - or so the British Phonographic Industry claims.

But the law is firmly

on the side of the industry. Here is what you can and cannot do:

Can I make copies of my own CDs for my own use?

NOT legally. Ripping your own CDs infringes the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. You must have written permission from the copyright owner beforehand. If you do not, you could face an unlimited fine or be jailed for up to ten years.

In reality, it is increasingly unlikely you will be prosecuted for copying your own music. Even the BPI admits it turns a blind eye to consumers putting legally bought CDs on to MP3s.

A BPI spokesman says: 'The current situation is confusing for consumers.

We are not trying to stop people putting their own music on to MP3 players.' Jill Johnstone, director of policy at the National Consumer Council, says: 'It is a piece of legal nonsense that you are not allowed to copy something for yourself that you have legally bought. It means that more than half the population is breaking the law. This brings the law itself into disrepute.' This area of copyright law is the part most likely to change in the near future. …