The majority of music-loving Macworld Online readers are breaking civil law over copyright, according to the music industry.

Macworld asked readers where the majority of the music on their iPod came from. A decisive 75 per cent (2,078) of the 2,786 readers who voted in the poll confirmed the music came from their very own music collections.

Music industry trade body the BPI claims that in the UK consumers don't have a legitimate right to burn the CDs they own in that way. Instead it says it "turns a blind eye" to such use, choosing not to mount civil litigation against consumers who engage in the practise.

"We have never taken action against any consumer for private copying alone; the most you could infer is that they are at worst 'infringing copyright'. I've made the point before that there are differences between civil and criminal law," a BPI representative said.

Readers slam BPI intransigence

A Macworld Online reader condemned the industry for this claim, saying: "I'm sick to death of how the whole music industry treats it's customers. We have the BPI telling us that technically it's not legal to rip your music to an iPod, strikes me that this is like a builder invoicing you again for the full amount each time someone walks on the path you have already paid for."

Speaking to the Gower Commission, the BPI has said it is willing to "discuss" what rights a consumer can enjoy to music that they own, but has never stated that it is willing to relinquish the existing UK rules for CD-ripping.

BPI spokesman Matt Phillips says: "Our submission to the Gowers Review does not say that the law should be changed to allow private copying." He only concedes the industry to be "willing to explore options to clarify what behaviour should be deemed acceptable for consumers."

Anachronistic and unfair

Macworld readers don't believe the industry should have the right to decide this. Consumers are siding with the UK's National Consumer Council (NCC).

The NCC says that this aspect of existing copyright law is anachronistic and places "unrealistic limits" on consumer rights. NCC activist Jill Johnstone said: "We need to shake up the copyright law to incorporate consumers' fair use rights - including the right to copy for private use."

A reader's comment on this is typical: "My music is a selection from my 15,000 CDs, some vinyl that still hasn't been issued on CD that I've digitized myself and a few free downloads from the band's own websites."

Another said: "My iTunes folder is 100 per cent legitimate. Nearly all of it consists of my own CDs ripped to iTunes, the remainder is my personal recordings where I own the copyright."

Digital boosts music sales

The music industry needs to keep music consumers on side to profit in the digital opportunity: "Since buying an iPod I have bought ten times as much music as I did before, because having an iPod means you can listen to your music anywhere and because iTunes makes music so much easier to access."

And readers don't believe they should pay for music each time they want it in a different format: "As far as I'm concerned, I paid for the right to listen to the music. The format I choose to listen to it in should be up to me," said one.

Another reader warned labels to "take a running jump", if they believe users should have to buy tracks again (at inferior quality and inflated prices) for use on portable players. "I'm hoping the UK follows Australia in finally legalising "fair use". it's absurd that you're breaking the law if you rip a CD to your hard drive/portable music player or tape a show off of the television," he said.

Artists matter, but industry has changed

It's clear that a sea change in public attitude has taken place. Macworld readers believe that artists deserve to be paid - but the music industry must avoid being seen as a parasite on the relationship between artists and consumers.

"I don't rip from other people's CDs anymore as iTunes makes it so much easier to get the songs I want and supports the artists properly," a reader remarked.

Sure, file-sharing remains a problem for the industry. The labels have bought a little time by fielding digital rights management technologies to protect their music, but ultimately any such solution can be broken.

Real customers don't steal

"As for illegal downloads, do people really think that those customers with the money to buy music are going to waste their time on peer-to-peer networks and the like? Life is too short!"

So the problem may not be terminal. Just 12 per cent of readers (321) who voted say they fill their iPod's with stolen music. Another 3 per cent (82) say they burn music from CDs that belong to friends.

Just 7 per cent of readers (188) who voted use iTunes as their primary song source for the iPod. Another 2 per cent of users (58) employ the cut-price Russian download site, AllOfMP3, and 1 per cent of voters (14) use another download source.

Finally, 45 voters manage to get their music "somewhere else" (2 per cent), for example from tracks distributed by the artists themselves through