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The Australian federal government is set to legalise the downloading of music from CDs onto iPods and MP3 players.

The Australian federal government is set to legalise the downloading of music from CDs onto iPods and MP3 players. However it will be illegal to download unauthorised or pirated content from the Internet. New laws will be introduced after federal cabinet agreed to make sweeping changes to copyright laws.

 

As part of the changes the Government will increase surveillance and fines on internet piracy in a package to be announced by Attorney-General Philip Ruddock in the next 24 hours.

According to the Australian newspaper Once the new laws are passed, “format shifting” of music, newspapers and books from personal collections onto iPods and MP3 players will become legal.

 

The laws will also make it legal for people to tape TV and radio programs for playback later, a practice currently prohibited, though millions of people regularly do it.

 

Currently, millions of households a day are breaking the law when they tape a show and watch it at another time.

 

Schools, universities, libraries and other cultural institutions will in the future be free to use copyright material for non-commercial purposes. But the Government is giving police greater powers to tackle internet piracy, signalling the days of downloading music from the internet danger-free may be limited.

 

Police will be able to issue on-the-spot fines and access and recover profits made by copyright pirates. Courts will be given extra powers to award larger damages payouts against internet pirates. Civil infringement proceedings will apply to copyright pirates who make electronic reproductions or copies of copyright material.

 

In a big win for recording artists, the laws will include the removal of the legislative 1 per cent cap on copyright licence fees paid by radio broadcasters for playing sound recordings.

 

The Government is bracing for a stoush with commercial radio stations over the removal of the cap, which has been in place since 1968.

 

But Mr Ruddock believes the archaic provision was established to protect radio broadcasters, which were facing a difficult economic environment at the time.

 

As they now operated in a “profitable and robust” industry, record companies and artists should be allowed to negotiate a fair market rate without legislative intervention, he will announce.

 

If both sides cannot agree on fees, the Copyright Tribunal would be called upon to adjudicate.

 

The Australian Institute of Criminology will be asked to undertake research into the extent of piracy and counterfeiting in Australia and how best to respond to the problem.

 

“Everyday consumers shouldn’t be treated like copyright pirates,” Mr Ruddock said yesterday.

 

“Copyright pirates should not be treated like everyday consumers.”

 

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