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UK: 10-year sentence for online piracy

April 22, 2016

By Colin Mann

The UK Government has confirmed that it plans to harmonise the maximum sentence for online copyright infringement with physical infringement – at 10 years. The proposal was contained in its response to a Consultation on Criminal Sanctions for Online Copyright Infringement.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe, Minister for Intellectual Property, noted that the creative industries add £84.1 billion to the UK economy each year, and to ensure this investment was protected, there must be effective and appropriately targeted laws.

Following the publication of an independent report – Penalty Fair – and other supportive evidence during 2015, Neville-Rolfe said that the maximum sentence for online copyright infringement needed to be harmonised with physical infringement – at 10 years.

“Last year the government consulted on increasing the maximum term to 10 years. We received over a thousand responses, which have played a significant part in helping to shape the discussion. As a result, we are now proposing changes that include increasing the maximum sentence, but at the same time addressing concerns about the scope of the offence. The revised provisions will help protect rights holders, while making the boundaries of the offence clearer, so that everyone can understand how the rules should be applied,” she advised.

“The UK is frequently cited as the world leader in IP enforcement, and as Minister for IP I want to do everything I can to preserve this standing. The provision of a maximum ten-year sentence is designed to send a clear message to criminals that exploiting the intellectual property of others online without their permission not acceptable,” she stated.

The Government intends to introduce to Parliament at the earliest available legislative opportunity re-drafted offence provisions which address issues raised in the consultation.

Reacting to the proposal, Jim Killock, Executive Director Open Rights Group said: “We note that the Minister has committed to narrowing the scope of the offence. We need to see that it relates to genuinely commercial infringements. In particular the test of prejudicially affecting the copyright holder needs to go, and a test for actual knowledge need to be present.

“We would welcome further discussions with her and the IPO to understand how the government seeks to ensure these new sentences are not abused to threaten people whose civil copyright misdemeanours are not deserving of custodial sentences.”

Over 1000 respondents from ORG’s community submitted evidence to the consultation.

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