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UK government mulls stronger anti-piracy measures

The UK government has launched a consultation on plans to increase the maximum sentence for commercial-scale online copyright infringement from two to 10 years imprisonment. Proposals set out in the consultation will bring penalties for online offences into line with equivalent offences relating to the copyright infringement of physical goods.

The proposed new measures will increase the sanctions for criminals who infringe the rights of copyright holders for large-scale financial gain and will make clear that online copyright infringement is no less serious than physical infringement.

Intellectual Property Minister Baroness Neville-Rolfe said the government takes copyright crime extremely seriously. “It hurts businesses, consumers and the wider economy both on and offline. Our creative industries are worth more than £7 billion to the UK economy and it’s important to protect them from online criminal enterprises. By toughening penalties for commercial-scale online offending we are offering greater protections to businesses and sending a clear message to deter criminals,” she stated.

“Online or offline, intellectual property theft is a crime,” declared Detective Chief Inspector Peter Ratcliffe, Head of the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU). “With advances in technology and the popularity of the Internet, more and more criminals are turning to online criminality and so it is imperative that our prosecution system reflects our moves to a more digital world. PIPCU therefore welcomes today’s consultation for harmonising the criminal sanctions for online copyright infringement.”

At present, commercial-scale online copyright infringement is only punishable by a maximum of two years imprisonment, by comparison the maximum sentence for infringement of physical goods is 10 years. The UK’s creative industries, including film, television and music, are worth £7.1 billion per year to the UK economy and support more than 1.6 million jobs. The government says the new proposals will offer the creative industries further protection from large-scale online copyright offenders and act as a significant deterrent.

“This consultation is very welcome as we feel there is a clear anomaly in the way that online copyright infringement by criminal enterprises is treated by the justice system,” said Eddy Leviten, Director General of the Alliance for Intellectual Property.

The publication of the consultation follows the recommendations made in the independent review ‘Penalty Fair?’ and calls from the creative industries for harmonisation of online and offline copyright infringement offences.

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