Lobbying body Open Rights Group (ORG) has responded to a consultation by the UK’s Intellectual Property Office (IPO) on proposals to increase the maximum prison sentence for criminal online copyright infringement to 10 years. The would bring sanctions for online copyright infringement in line with those for physical copyright infringement.
ORG agrees with the IPO that the online environment should not confer less protection for copyright holders. However, the IPO’s proposals could mean that people who share links and files online without any financial gain could be punished more severely than criminals who commit physical theft, which has a maximum penalty of seven years.
According to Executive Director, Jim Killock, the key problem is that copyright infringement requires no ‘intent’ to harm. “Someone who shares copyrighted files can face a criminal charge because of the apparent value of the copies shared. The value of share files is hard to estimate and can easily be exaggerated. This makes the criminal copyright offence very wide and could mean heavy-handed sentences for ordinary people and businesses,” he warned.
“We are asking the IPO to narrow the criminal charge to businesses and people intending to cause serious harm. Ten years in jail is a very harsh punishment, which should be reserved for real criminals who are making financial gains from copyright infringement,” he concluded.