In an effort to deter online piracy the UK Government is proposing to increase the maximum prison sentence for online copyright infringement to ten years.
The current maximum of two years is not enough to deter infringers, lawmakers argue.
The new proposal follows a suggestion put forward in a study commissioned by the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) earlier this year.
The study concluded that the criminal sanctions for copyright infringement available under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA 1988) could be amended to bring them into line with related offenses, such as counterfeiting.
According to the Government it’s important that online piracy is seen as “no less serious” than offline infringements, and the increased sentence will put both offenses on par.
“By toughening penalties for commercial-scale online offending we are offering greater protections to businesses and sending a clear message to deter criminals,” says Intellectual Property Minister Baroness Neville-Rolfe.
The proposal is being welcomed by copyright holders who have lobbied extensively to increase penalties for online piracy.
“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,” Eddy Leviten, Director General of the Alliance for Intellectual Property, says.
Although targeted at online piracy, casual file-sharers have little to worry about. The new legislation will be targeted at those involved in organized and commercial copyright infringement. This would include operators of large piracy sites, but not their users.
Before going forward with the proposal the Government is seeking input from the public. A consultation launched today invites supporters and opponents of the plan to chime in, which is likely to trigger a heated debate.
The consultation will run until the end of August and the Government will release the individual responses and publish a summary report afterwards.