God bless the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). This fearless defender of everything that’s right, moral and upstanding has allowed ISPs to advertise fantasy headline speeds and limited “unlimited” packages for donkey’s years, but when it comes to the really big issues, it’s not afraid to wield the big stick.
The latest victim of the ASA’s wrath is 3GA Ltd, the company that makes the Brennan JB7 – “a CD player with a hard disk that stores up to 5,000 CDs”.
The adverts for the Brennan highlight the convenience of ripping your entire CD collection to the device – much like we’ve all been doing for years on our PCs, iPods and other MP3 players.
However, somebody with nothing better to do with their life (or, more likely, one of Brennan’s competitors) complained that the “ad incited consumers to break the law, because it was illegal to copy music without permission from the copyright owner”.
This is, of course, technically correct: format shifting is indeed illegal in the UK, despite companies such as Apple making hundreds of millions of pounds by tacitly encouraging people to do just that.
But this isn’t Apple – it’s 3GA Ltd, a small company that likely doesn’t have a legal department nor a multi-million marketing machine to fight its battles. And despite the fact that (to the best of my knowledge) nobody’s ever been prosecuted for format shifting, the ASA has decided to take offence to advertising this everyday practice.
“We considered the overall impression of the ad was such that it encouraged consumers and businesses to copy CDs, vinyl and cassettes,” the ASA adjudication states. “In the absence of prominent explanation, we concluded that the ad misleadingly implied it was acceptable to copy CDs, vinyl and cassettes without the permission of the copyright owner. We also considered that the ad encouraged people to use the advertised product in this way and that, therefore, it incited consumers to break the law.”
We can all sleep a little easier in our beds tonight, safe in the knowledge this dangerous outlaw has been dealt with.