An astonishing 55 per cent of UK consumers have ripped CDs they legally own to their iPod or computer - and very few realise that at the moment this practice is illegal, a recent survey claims.

The National Consumer Council (NCC) commissioned market research from YouGov, which spoke with 2,135 UK adults between April 10-12.

The survey found that despite the music industry insistence that ripping music from legally-owned CDs contravenes copyright law, consumer habits show that up to be an outdated precept.

A significant 59 per cent of the survey group believe ripping in this way to be totally legal, just 19 per cent were aware that it isn't.

The survey results come as the NCC prepares to make its submission to the UK government Gowers review of copyright law.

The NCC will say that this aspect of existing law is out of step with modern consumer culture and puts unrealistic limits on their private viewing habits.

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."

The NCC is also challenging music industry demands that the life of copyright be extended, arguing that this makes no economic sense, and that the music labels focus on new releases, not back catalogue, for their business plans.

"Whether for films, literary or musical works, sound recordings or broadcasts, the length of all copyright terms should be reduced to fit more closely the time period over which most financial returns are normally made," Johnstone said.

She slammed major label greed: "The current campaign by the music industry to extend copyright terms for sound recordings beyond fifty years has no justification," she said.

"Evidence shows that music companies generally make returns on material in a matter of years not decades. Current terms already provide excessive protection of intellectual property rights at a cost to consumers," she added.