Online Pirates To Now Get 10 Year Prison Sentence According To UK Bill
Recently, the UK Government has introduced a Digital Economy Bill in the Parliament, which is set to refurbish current copyright legislation. However, the increased maximum sentence for online copyright infringement has become one of the most debatable changes. The maximum prison term was increased by the five times, from two to ten years in spite of public protest.
The UK Government announced a plan last year to increase the maximum prison sentence for online copyright infringement to ten years.
The lawmakers were of the opinion that the current maximum of two years is not enough to dissuade infringers.
A few months earlier, the plan followed a recommendation put forward in a study commissioned by the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO).
This study determined that criminal sanctions for online copyright infringement could be increased to make them fall in line with offenses related to the same nature, such as counterfeiting.
The Government launched a public consultation, asking for comments and advice from the public before applying the changes. However, although majority of the replies advised the authorities not to increase the prison term, lawmakers decided otherwise.
Therefore, a new draft of the Digital Economy bill published this week increases the current prison term from two to ten years. The applicable part amends the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, and simply replaces the word two with ten.
The new bill passed its first reading in the Parliament on July 5 where it was uncovered. This allows courts to give tougher sentences if accepted in its current form.
For a long time, the copyright holders have been pushing for this update. According to them, stricter penalties are required to discourage people from carrying out huge-scale copyright infringement, a point that the Government is not in disagreement with.
“The Government believes that a maximum sentence of 10 years allows the courts to apply an appropriate sentence to reflect the scale of the offending,” the Government clarified in the past, adding that the maximum sentence will only be applied in exceptional cases.
This implies that casual file-sharers are unlikely to serve the jail term of 10 years. However, organized groups that methodically provide pirated files, such as Scene or P2P release groups, are likely to be punished more severely.
To bring the sentence in line with counterfeiting was one of the incentives to increase the sentence for online piracy. However, what is interesting that both were already equal when they were first accepted.
Both counterfeiting and piracy carried a maximum sentence of two years when the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act was first introduced. The counterfeiting sentences were increased in 2002 following industry calls, and now the piracy side is too trailing on the same path.