UK seeks stiffer penalties for online pirates

Baroness Neville-RolfeThe UK government plans to increase the maximum sentence for commercial-scale online copyright infringement from two to 10 years in jail.

The proposal - set out in a consultation document published by the Intellectual Property Office and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills - wants to bring penalties for online offences into line with copyright infringements for physical goods.

The document makes it clear that individuals downloading content for personal use are not in the scope of the proposals. Rather, it focuses on the individuals and groups preparing and distributing copyrighted material for download by thousands of users via various online sources.

The UK's Intellectual Property Minister - Baroness Neville-Rolfe (pictured) - said when launching the consultation 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 £7bn to the UK economy and it's important to protect them from online criminal enterprises."

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

The publication of the consultation follows the recommendations made in the recent independent Penalty Fair? review - commissioned by the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) and published in March - as well as calls from the creative industries for harmonisation of online and offline copyright infringement offences.

The review found that "there is logic to placing serious online copyright offences into a more serious category." Fundamentally, it continues, "either online copyright offences are capable of causing serious harm, or they are not." The consultation seeks to explore that question.

The IPO said it intends to publish individual responses and a summary of the responses to the consultation, which has a deadline of August 17.

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