The Gowers report, published yesterday, was commissioned by the UK government to review the Intellectual Property framework of the UK and produce recommendations. The report is here as a pdf. The bit that caught my eye, is that Gowers proposes a limited right to private copying for ‘format shifting’. It is not widely known that copying a CD to an MP3 player in the UK is prohibited. It is not in the US, or in other European countries, and nobody thinks of it as an act of piracy. In this case the law is certainly an ass and this Gowers recommendation will, surely, be taken up. However such a change in the law will be framed in general terms — so it will apply to all media. This will have an impact on the way in which book, newspaper and magazine copyrights are handled. Prediction: in 2012 it will be OK to format shift your magazine, Vogue or more likely Mojo, to your iPOD and flip your Citizen Kane across to your Sony eReader. Second prediction: there will be a reason you want to do that.
Two points to keep in mind as you peruse Gowers’ 150 odd pages. First, it is only a report. These are recommendations not changes in the law. It is still illegal to copy your U2 CD to your iPOD in London (wait till you get well away from Heathrow). Second, (and this is the serious point sheltering behind the flippant warning), copyrights now have to work in a global environment. What the UK parliament legislates will play catch-up to technological innovations in Korea and is anyway less important than the work of EU and US lawmakers.