Ten Years in Jail For UK Internet Pirates: How the New Bill Reads

News

The Digital Economy Bill is currently at the report stage. It hasn't yet become law and could still be amended. However, as things stand those who upload any amount of infringing content to the Internet could face up to 10 years in jail. With the latest bill now published, we take a look at how file-sharers could be affected.

parliamentThis week, Members of Parliament debated the Report stage and Third Reading of the Digital Economy Bill in the House of Commons. The bill is broad in scope and has the ability to upset Internet users in a number of ways.

As reported by The Guardian this week, if the bill passes web users in the UK will be banned from websites which portray certain sex acts, all of which are entirely legal between consenting adults in the country. Websites which fail to stop UK residents from viewing such content will be blocked.

Here at TF we’ve been keeping an eye on the proposed changes to the Copyrights, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA) which will affect people who share copyrighted content online.

As previously reported, the government’s main aim is to harmonize penalties for offline infringements with those carried out online, chiefly by upping the maximum penalty from two to ten years in prison. The latest bill published this week puts some additional meat on the bones.

As things stand under current law, section 107 (criminal liability for making or dealing with infringing articles) reads as follows:

(2A) A person who infringes copyright in a work by communicating the work to the public —

(a) in the course of a business, or

(b) otherwise than in the course of a business to such an extent as to affect prejudicially the owner of the copyright,

commits an offense if he knows or has reason to believe that, by doing so, he is infringing copyright in that work.

The latest draft amendment makes no mention of carrying out infringement during the course of business. Instead, for a person to be held criminally liable for distribution (such as uploading), they only need to have reason to believe something infringes copyright while making a personal gain, a gain for someone else, or exposing a copyright owner to the mere risk of loss.

(2A) A person (“P”) who infringes copyright in a work by communicating the work to the public commits an offense if P —

(a) knows or has reason to believe that P is infringing copyright in the work, and
(b) either —
(i) intends to make a gain for P or another person, or
(ii) knows or has reason to believe that communicating the work to the public will cause loss to the owner of the copyright, or will expose the owner of the copyright to a risk of loss.

In this context, the words ‘gain’ and ‘loss’ are very important. For the avoidance of doubt, the draft sets the bar as low as it can practically go.

(2B) For the purposes of subsection (2A) —
(a) “gain” and “loss” —
(i) extend only to gain or loss in money, and
(ii) include any such gain or loss whether temporary or
permanent, and
(b) “loss” includes a loss by not getting what one might get.

Similar amendments are proposed for section 198 of the CDPA, which deals with ‘Criminal liability for making, dealing with or using illicit recordings’.

“These are recordings made without the consent of the performer (i.e. piracy or bootlegging). Bootlegging is the recording, duplication and sale of a performance such as a live concert stage performance without the permission of the performer,” a description from the Crown Prosecution Service reads.

Like the amendments to section 107, gone are the references in current legislation to offenses carried out in the course of a business. Instead, the wording closely follows the section detailed above.

(1A) A person (“P”) who infringes a performer’s making available right in a recording commits an offense if P —

(a) knows or has reason to believe that P is infringing the right, and
(b)either—
(i) intends to make a gain for P or another person, or
(ii) knows or has reason to believe that infringing the right will cause loss to the owner of the right, or expose the owner of the right to a risk of loss.

In common with the amendments to section 107, to be found criminally liable an infringer will only need to expose a rightsholder to the risk of loss, not an actual loss.

While at several points MPs have insisted that these legislative amendments won’t target the man in the street or the casual file-sharer, there appears to be nothing in the above that excludes a person who shares a single movie, song, or indeed bootleg recording, from being branded a criminal by the state.

The full draft bill can be downloaded here (pdf, 180 pages)

Tagged in:

Share this post:

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusreddittumblrmail

You may also like:

c There are 0 comments. Add yours?

comment policy