With one stroke, Cable stops millions breaking the law

By Ian Dunt

Vince Cable is expected to legislate away intellectual property laws that inadvertently cause millions of Brits to break the law tomorrow.

The business secretary's plans for copyright reform will almost certainly wipe away old rules around transferring data that make it illegal to copy CDs or DVDs into a different format.

The announcement, set to come in a speech at the British Library, is also expected to confirm that the government will have to water down the provisions of the Digital Economy Act.

Millions of Brits currently transfer music and video files to their iPod or other devices without knowing they are breaking the law.

Mr Cable said: "We are determined to explore how exceptions to copyright can benefit the UK economy and support growth. Private copying is carried out by millions of people, and many are astonished that it is illegal in this country.

"We need to bring copyright into line with people's expectations and update it for the modern digital world. This will free up innovative British businesses to develop new consumer technology and help boost economic growth."

Online companies like Google, Amazon and Apple are keen on a new regulatory framework before cloud computing becomes prevalent. Cloud systems let users hold data remotely, allowing the same video to be viewed at home or by remote players and preventing loss of data.

The reforms are also expected to make it legal to burn content for another family member, although the same rules against online file-sharing will still apply.

Guy Wilmot, solicitor at Russell-Cooke LLP commented: "Copyright legislation in the UK is very restrictive in various ways and many households in the UK are likely to be in breach of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 by making back-up copies of music, films and software.

"The argument is that the problem for innovation is that companies are cautious about developing technology to facilitate home back-up copying as they fear legal consequences such as being found to be a 'secondary infringer' however some caution is advised as to whether this is really an issue as the same rules never stopped double-tape decks from being sold."

Mr Cable is also expected to confirm plans to water down the Digital Economy Act. The Act – passed in a rush before Labour left office – aims to crack down on file-sharing websites, where users can download film and audio without payment.

The business secretary is expected to say that one of the Act's more controversial measures blocking access to the sites will no longer go ahead because it is unworkable.

Plans to send cease-and-desist letters to persistent downloaders will still go ahead, but on a much later timetable.

Although it was due to be implemented by late 2011, the plans are now unlikely to take effect until early 2013.

Three letters will be sent to downloaders before their connection is cut off.

Online spoofs, usually short video files of music videos or scenes from movies with the audio changed, are also expected to receive legal protection following recent battles.

The makers of Newport State of Mind, a song which satirised rapper Jay-Z's Empire State of Mind by moving it from New York to south Wales, was removed from YouTube recently after a legal battle.