The opinions expressed in this editorial are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Decima Reports.One overlooked consequence of last week’s Federal Court of Appeal decision exempting MP3 players from the private copying regime is the extent to which the ruling drives yet another wedge between copyright owners and the music labels. The decision caps off a year that saw the two groups at odds over ringtones, mechanical reproduction rights and, now, the level of compensation owed on digital downloads made for private uses.   The music labels have reason to cheer the decision. They are well on their way to having downloading from peer-to-peer networks conclusively declared illegal. A new right of making available will almost certainly be a part of any copyright reform package, and it’s unlikely now that downloads to a device such as a PC or iPod will be deemed legal. Both the up- and downloading will be frowned upon, and the decision should make it easier for the labels to pursue large-scale music downloaders with suits - so long as they can sort out serious issues with how they present their case in a courtroom. The songwriters, artists and publishers, however, have been effectively stripped of millions of dollars in levies that would have accrued to them from devices such as MP3 players. In fact, just as this issue goes to press, Future Shop and Best Buy have announced that they will pass on the savings that result from the ruling effective immediately. We can’t predict where the developments will lead, but it’s unlikely that songwriters, publishers and artists will let go of tens of millions of dollars without a fight. It’s a nearly sure thing that the private copying decision will go to the Supreme Court, but observers of the battle will want to keep the fight in the context of the broader trends. Labels and the artists they release aren’t done fighting yet, and 2005 promises to be a critical year in the relationship. With old alliances in the copyright fights breaking down, we’d urge the departments responsible to articulate a clear vision for the future. The piecemeal approach that is now changed nearly monthly depending on the courts’ whims provides no one with certainty.