U.K. Considers 10-Year Sentence for Piracy (CDSA)

By Chris Tribbey

In a bid to deter online piracy, Britain’s Intellectual Property Office (IPO) is recommending an increase in the maximum jail term for offenders, from two to 10 years, the IPO announced.

The proposal would bring the penalties for online piracy in line with those for copyright infringement of physical goods, but would only apply to “criminals who infringe the rights of copyright holders for large-scale financial gain,” the IPO announced.

“The government takes copyright crime extremely seriously: it hurts businesses, consumers and the wider economy both on and offline,” IPO head Lucy Neville-Rolfe said in a statement. “Our creative industries are worth more than £7 billion to the U.K. 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.”

Currently, commercial-scale online copyright infringement is punishable by a maximum of two years in prison, under the U.K.’s Copyright, Designs and Patents Act of 1988. The proposed increase follows a March report by the IPO that found public prosecutors aren’t being harsh enough on online pirates, choosing large fines over jail time. That’s not proving to be a piracy deterrent, the IPO concluded. The U.K. has already increased the maximum fine for large-scale online piracy from £5,000 to £50,000 and finally to an unlimited amount.

“Online or offline, intellectual property theft is a crime,” said detective chief inspector Peter Ratcliffe, head of Britain’s 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 [the proposal] for harmonizing the criminal sanctions for online copyright infringement.”

U.K.’s government is currently soliciting feedback on the proposal from enforcement agencies and prosecutors, before moving forward.