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The High Court has overturned a law introduced by the government in October of last year to make transferring films and music to one’s home library illegal again. A judge ruled that the government was legally wrong when it decided not to introduce a compensation scheme for songwriters, musicians and other rights holders who face losses as a result of their copyright being infringed. Prospective Lawyers might take this opportunity to look at the case report, and read more about the unique nature of judicial review.

UK Music estimated the new regulations, without a compensation scheme, would have resulted in loss of revenues for rights owners in the creative sector of £58m a year. However, it is not clear how the change will be enforced, as authorities tended to turn a blind eye when the law was previously in force.

The change is symptomatic of wider problems in the music industry, which has struggled to adapt to the digital landscape. Physical purchases have plummeted as the industry has moved almost exclusively online. Notions of ownership have also changed: consumers no longer desire outright ownership of their music, favouring breadth and flexibility over depth and permanence. Online streaming, pioneered by services such as Spotify, has fundamentally shifted the balance of power away from the industry’s historic institutions. Whilst this is not necessarily a problem in itself, artists’ remuneration is often mishandled, culminating in star acts such as Taylor Swift removing her music from the service. Illegal downloads have certainly also played their part.

How can the music industry move forwards? An Economics student might consider innovative approaches to monetizing a relatively new industry model such as Spotify, whilst Musicians (and indeed any writers, filmmakers, or photographers) will no doubt have strong opinions about the extent to which they own their own work. Computer scientists, however, may be more preoccupied with ascertaining whether or not it would ever be possible to police such a law. 

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