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A year ago, the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) conducted a study, which concluded that criminal sanctions for copyright violation should be amended and brought into line with such offenses as counterfeiting. The results of the study also triggered a proposal from the British government that the maximum prison sentence for online piracy should be increased from the current 2 years to 10 years to be a sufficient deterrent.

Several months ago, the UK government started a consultation in order to gauge opinion on increasing penalties to make sure that online copyright infringement is taken as seriously as offline infringements. Now the government released its conclusions after studying more than a thousand responses and confirmed that it is going to ask Parliament for a 10-year maximum sentence. At the same time, it was noted that a number of safeguards are already in place to make sure a very low level infringer would not be subjected to a high penalty.

The government also addressed concerns raised by the consultation that unwitting pirates might be sentenced to jail, referencing a system that has already been in place for some time: enforcement agencies currently have a staged response system that encompasses education, “cease and desist” notices, and domain suspension. This means that the pirates receive advance warnings that they can be jailed for a decade. The government also clarified that minor copyright infringement won’t lead to a criminal prosecution.

Of course, the consultation raised concerns that a 10-year sentence would place infringement alongside such offenses as rape and child cruelty, but the UK government still believes that the sentence is warranted. It referred to the case brought against a number of release group members in 2015 as an example that while 10 years is a maximum, it would be used rarely. In that case, 5 defendants received sentences totaling 17 years for releasing over 2,500 movies online without permission of the copyright holders.



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