The UK government has this week introduced the Digital Economy Bill into parliament. If passed, the bill will increase the current two-year prison term for piracy to a whopping ten-year sentence. The legislation, which was first suggested last year, aims to bring copyright laws into line with other crimes such as counterfeiting.
The new legislation, which has been opposed by the public, is the result of a study conducted by the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) last year. That study revealed that the current two-year sentence does not deter UK citizens enough from committing online copyright infringement.
Following the investigation, the government launched a public appeal for comments and advice; for which the resounding response was that the jail time should not be increased. Sadly, those requests have been completely ignored by policymakers – who have moved the law into the House of Commons – where it yesterday received its first reading without appeal for amendment.
The draft of the new Digital Economy Bill is available for scrutiny online here for anyone that wants to see how it will affect UK citizens when it is passed in the coming months.
Below is an excerpt from the bill that demonstrates the tougher sentences that UK courts will be able to hand out. Also revealing that it straightforwardly amends the Copyright, Designs, and Patents Act of 1988 by simply replacing the number of years available for sentencing from two to ten in section (3),
The changes are likely due to years of lobbying from copyright holders such as the Hollywood movie studios and ‘big five’ music labels, who feel hard done by at the hands of copyright infringers, despite plenty of evidence that piracy increases their revenue, reach and appeal.
Sadly, the UK government agrees that stronger laws are needed to put people off from large scale copyright infringement, although the government admits that the maximum sentence would only be doled out under more extreme circumstances,
‘The Government believes that a maximum sentence of 10 years allows the courts to apply an appropriate sentence to reflect the scale of the offending.’
With that in mind, it seems highly unlikely that ordinary computer users caught pirating one or two movies would, or file sharing small amounts of content would wind up in jail for the whole of the available, massive, decade-long sentence. Instead, those ten-year sentences would likely be saved for criminals involved in the distribution of pirated movies with the intention of making a profit, and services that systematically offer P2P filesharing services in an organized manner.
On the plus side, the Digital Economy Bill also states that by spring of 2017 all ISPs will have to abide by a universal service obligation (USO). That means all UK residents will receive minimum broadband Internet connection speeds of 10Mbps – quite the improvement – for some UK households that suffer from laggy connection speeds in their local area.
In fact, overall it is thought that a total of 2.4 million homes and businesses suffer from connection speeds under that 10Mbps threshold. Under the new legislation, anybody suffering from slow connection speeds would be allowed to demand the improvement to their service at once. It being the government’s belief that this will improve the UK’s digital economy.
Digital economy minister, Ed Vaizey, made the following comment,
‘We want the UK to be a place where technology ceaselessly transforms the economy, society and government. The UK has always been at the forefront of technological change, and the measures in the Digital Economy Bill provide the necessary framework to make sure we remain world leaders.’
Other positive aspects of the bill include allowing UK Internet users to more easily switch their suppliers, should they want to. Plus stipulations to protect consumers online and stronger penalties for spammers.
Digital Economy Bill – Reason for a VPN
With more substantial penalties for piracy likely to soon be passed; and the invasive snoopers’ charter in the process of being passed through the House of Lords at the moment. Anybody with a penchant for watching pirated content online is strongly advised to consider a VPN.
Reliable VPNs encrypt all data between your IP address and your Internet Service Provider (ISP). That means that even when the snoopers’ charter (draft communications data bill) is passed, your ISP will be unable to actually store your data for the government: Because it is strongly encrypted using OpenVPN.