iTunes is Illegal: Why Copyright Laws Need a Drastic Overhaul


However improbable it may be that anyone will ever be arrested for importing music to iTunes from a CD, it’s no longer impossible. New copyright laws in the UK have actually made one of iTunes’ most common usage methods illegal.

Torrent Freak reported the insane technicality on Thursday August 6. What’s even more bizarre is that the law is neither an oversight in a new long-winded, tedious bill, nor a hole that’s gone unplugged by a lazy proofreader. The decision by the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) to criminalise transfers of copyrighted material is, in fact, an amendment to the law.

It was only last year that file copying for private use was made legal. But now, as part of the Government’s attempts to ban everything – like, everything – that decision has been overturned.


This should be the least of our concerns as far as copyright law is concerned, because new government proposals could see child grooming and copyright infringement both result in a ten-year sentence. Let that sink in:

“What are you in for?”

“Paedophilia. You?”

“Copied my One Direction album to iTunes”.

“You fucking monster!”

That’s probably not the best example to use, because I’d gladly lock up anyone who listens to One Direction.

The principle, however, is completely screwed up. The Open Rights Group (ORG) is amongst many groups to have decried the new proposal’s poor distinction between regular file sharing and those who intend to profit from copyright infringement.

In a statement on its website, ORG said: “The IPO’s proposals could mean that people who share links and files online without any financial gain could be punished more severely than criminals who commit physical theft, which has a maximum penalty of seven years.”

It’s also just the latest piece of legislature to highlight the ludicrous overreach of pro-copyright lobbyism.

“It’s interesting to see how far the supporters of the status quo will go,” says Loz Kaye, former leader of Pirate Party UK and also a composer & musician.

Loz Kaye
Loz Kaye

Back in 2012, the Party set up a Pirate Bay proxy in response to the site being blocked in the Netherlands. Before long, the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) – the UK’s recording industry trade association – caught wind, and exercised their lawyers’ powers to the full extent.

“This was a political decision, and of course it was hardly the only proxy,” Loz recalls. “What happened was that the BPI threatened to take me, the Party’s National Executive and our head of IT to the High Court – personally – over the proxy.”

Following legal advice, the Party removed the proxy. “The truth of it was that the BPI was ready to ruin me and the rest of the Party, personally. It was clear that this would have destroyed the political project as we would have been in court for months if not years if we were to fight all the way.”

The reason behind the Party’s decision to run the proxy is deeply rooted within the reasons for the existence of the Internet itself.

“The big problem is that in the age of the Internet there is no way to stop copying, sharing, transmission and abundance. That is what the web is designed to do,” Loz continues, “so it makes no sense to base the idea of creating income from restricting access to content instead of rewarding actual work. More widely, we do not give any other kind of workers an income from their labour decades after their death. That makes no sense.”

And these attempts to restrict access to content are not limited to film and music files, however. As Julia Reda’s EU copyright report recently explained, even public spaces and landmarks are subject to copyright. The ‘Freedom of Panorama’ provision, which allows people to take photographs and videos or public buildings, recently came under threat.

Julia Reda
Julia Reda
Image source:

Again, almost as crazy as being imprisoned for using iTunes is the idea of being prosecuted for taking a picture of the Eiffel Tower. Think twice before you take that selfie!

The simple truth is that ‘big content’ lobbies are wrong in claiming that they are the sole voice of artists and the creative industries. Big corporations have unfortunately appropriated Intellectual Property laws as a kneejerk reaction to seeing their profits threatened time after time by innovators outside the industry (think Napster, Pirate Bay) – whose interests lie beyond financial gain – rather than helping artists and creators, as they are originally intended to serve.

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