Large scale online music pirates will face 10 years in prison if plans being considered by the UK government get the green light.
Digital copyright infringement currently carries a maximum two-year sentence in the UK market, but that could all change as the Conservatives seek a more “significant deterrent”.
The government has launched an official consultation on plans to increase the maximum prison sentence for commercial-scale online copyright infringement from two to ten years.
Proposals set out in the consultation (which you can real in full here) will bring penalties for online offences into line with equivalent offences relating to the copyright infringement of physical goods.
The maximum penalty would particularly apply to those who ‘infringe copyright for large-scale financial gain’, while it it thought that those who deliberately leak pre-release music and movies online would also be hit hard.
The news comes after sustained lobbying for tougher regulation from industry bodies such as music’s BPI.
“BY TOUGHENING PENALTIES FOR COMMERCIAL-SCALE OFFENDING WE SEND A CLEAR MESSAGE TO DETER CRIMINALS.” BARONESS NEVILLE-ROLFE
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.”
Head of the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU), Detective Chief Inspector Peter Ratcliffe said “Online or offline, intellectual property theft is a crime. 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 2 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 new proposals will offer the creative industries further protection from large-scale online copyright offenders and act as a significant deterrent.”
Eddy Leviten, Director General of the Alliance for Intellectual Property, said:
“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.
“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.”