Online copyright infringement rules set for overhaul

Written by staff reporter

The government has today launched a consultation on plans to increase the maximum sentence for commercial-scale online copyright infringement from two to 10 years imprisonment. Proposals set out in the consultation will bring penalties for online offences into line with equivalent offences relating to the copyright infringement of physical goods.

“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,” said Intellectual Property Minister Baroness Neville-Rolfe.

“By toughening penalties for commercial-scale online offending we are offering greater protections to businesses and sending a clear message to deter criminals.

Welcoming the consultation for harmonising the sanction, 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.

“At present, commercial-scale online copyright infringement is only punishable by a maximum of two 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.”

The Alliance for Intellectual Property said there is a "clear anomaly" in the way that online copyright infringement by criminal enterprises is currently 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.

Currently, online copyright infringement is dealt with under s198(2a) and s107(1a) of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988, is only punishable by a maximum of two years. By comparison, the maximum sentence for infringement of physical goods is 10 years.

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