The U.K. Intellectual Property Office (IPO) has outlined proposals to improve copyright licensing and increase financial penalties for online infringers.

The proposals, which were part of the Digital Britain report, include legislative changes to remove the infringement risk that currently prevents collecting societies licensing orphan works, as they do not have a mandate from the rights holder; new powers for government to authorize collecting societies to set up extended licensing schemes, allowing certain societies to act for a group of rights holders even if they are not all members of the society, unless a specific rights holder has opted out; and underpinning the operation of collecting societies with a statutory backed framework.

The proposal for such a framework to improve the operation of collecting societies would require formal public consultation.

There is also a measure being proposed to match online and physical IP infringement penalties, with a statutory maximum penalty of £50,000 [$82,000] for all IP offenses. The online penalty is currently £5,000 [$8,200].

"We must have the tools in place to tackle serious and organized IP crime," said David Lammy, minister of state for Intellectual Property in a statement. "The proposed £50,000 maximum penalty for online and physical infringement sends a clear message to IP criminals. In this online age, IP infringement warrants a serious response. It needs to be stamped out- regardless of whether the offense is online or offline."

He added "In order to modernise and streamline the existing copyright system, I'm proposing a number of changes to the way collecting societies can operate. We should underpin the operation of collecting societies so that customers receive similar services and safeguards they would expect when dealing with a quality utility company."

"I want to see greater development to ensure that our orphan works such as those great cultural works amassed in the BBC and the British Library are accessible to those who wish to benefit from them."

Meanwhile, the Featured Artists Coalition (FAC) has responded to the June 16 publication of Digital Britain. Although it welcomes parts of the report, the artists' body states that it is "wrong to criminalize ordinary music fans," and it wants to work with government and other parts of the industry to agree on a definition of a "serious, repeat infringer" as part of the proposals for technical measures to deter piracy.

"We believe that this is a good indication of a willingness to establish a more level playing field between artists and the traditional structures of the music industry," said FAC board member Ed O'Brien of Radiohead in a statement. "It is refreshing to see that our extensive discussions with the Copyright Office and rights minister David Lammy have had some influence. We look forward to working with the IPO to further develop this strategic direction."

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