As part of an overhaul of its intellectual property regulations, the United Kingdom’s government announced its intention to legalize copying CDs for personal use.

Consumers will be allowed to transfer a copy of legally purchased copyrighted material onto a computer, backup disc or portable device, but prohibitions against sharing these files remain. Almost all European countries already allow these types of personal copying.

UK Business Secretary Vince Cable said, “Thousands of people copy legitimately purchased content, such as a CD, to a computer or portable device such as an iPod, assuming it is legal. This move will bring copyright law into line with the real world, and with consumers’ reasonable expectations.”

Other changes were announced, which in total the government said could add up to £8 billion ($13.1 billion) to the economy.

In a remarkable admission, the UK government’s statements also identified two particular difficulties in regard to regulating intellectual property: “a near-total lack of high quality evidence on some issues and an overabundance of effective lobbying.” Future decisions will be based on more definitive evidence than in the past, it said.

Another provision that will be enacted is legalizing the commercial and cultural use of orphan works: books, music or other intellectual property known to be under copyright but where the copyright owner cannot be located. “This would open up a range of works that are currently locked away in libraries and museums and unavailable for consumer or research purposes,” Cable said.

In addition, the government called for a feasibility study into establishing a digital copyright exchange to make it easier for new services looking to license music, movies or books from a range of content owners.

These and other changes were recommended in Digital Opportunity: A Review of Intellectual Property and Growth, which is commonly referred to as the Hargreaves Review. The document examining intellectual property issues and suggesting improvements was requested in Nov. 2010 by Prime Minister David Cameron.

Related Links:

Hargreaves Review (PDF) –

UK Government response –

Photo: Photostatters at work in the UK Intellectual Property Office circa 1948, used with permission of the IPO.