U.K. Government Mulls Lengthening Maximum Sentence for Piracy to a Decade

The maximum sentence for online copyright infringement could rise from two to 10 years imprisonment in the United Kingdom, according to new proposals outlined by the British government.  
 
The increased penalties form part of a consultation to tackle commercial-scale digital piracy and, if enforced, will bring jail terms for online copyright infringement level with those for infringement of physical goods for large-scale financial gain, which already carries a maximum custodial sentence of 10 years.  

“The government takes copyright crime extremely seriously -- it hurts businesses, consumers and the wider economy both on- and offline,” said Intellectual Property Minister Baroness Neville-Rolfe on launching the consultation process. “By toughening penalties for commercial-scale online offending we are offering greater protections to businesses and sending a clear message to deter criminals,” continued Neville-Rolfe.

“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,” added Head of the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU), Detective Chief Inspector Peter Ratcliffe.

Currently, online copyright infringement is dealt with under the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 and is punishable by a maximum of two years imprisonment. The new proposals follows the recommendations outlined in the independent March 2015 review ‘Penalty Fair?,’ which concluded that “There is logic to placing serious online copyright offences into a more serious category.”
 
Stakeholders have also long argued that the law needs to be changed to reflect today’s digital economy. The British government says that the creative industries are worth more than £7 billion ($10.9 billion) to the U.K. economy and support more than 1.6 million jobs.