UK pirates could soon face 10 years behind bars

The UK is considering drastically increasing the maximum penalty for copyright infringement, ZDNet reports, with offenders facing up to 10 years behind bars.

It’s important to note that this 10-year penalty will only apply to “commercial” infringement. If you’re just downloading the odd album to listen to, then it won’t affect you. But pirates who run ad-supported sites hosting copyright material could face far sterner penalties.

The UK’s Intellectual Property Office released the proposal as part of a consultation soliciting feedback on the change, and is intended to “equalise” the penalties for physical and online infringement. As it currently stands, someone selling fake DVDs could face a decade’s imprisonment, while a website operator — no matter how popular their site or prolific the infringement — has the maximum penalty capped at two years in prison.

In a statement, intellectual property minister Baroness Neville-Rolfe said that “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.”

It comes after a previous review called for an alignment of penalties for online and commercial infringement. Mike Weatherley, intellectual property advisor to the Prime Minister said that “there is currently a disparity in sentencing between online and offline crime that needs to be harmonised. This sends out all the wrong messages. Until this is changed, online crime will be seen as less significant than traditional theft.”

Here’s a link to the consultation document »

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