The UK”s Digital Economy Bill received royal assent and became law. According to it, Internet file-sharers can be jailed for up to 10 years if the court finds that they knowingly made infringing content available to the public and exposed a copyright owner to just a risk of loss.
It was two years ago that the British government announced its plans to increase the maximum prison sentence for online piracy from 2 to 10 years. It originated from a suggestion put forward in a study commissioned by the UK Intellectual Property Office, which found out that criminal sanctions for online copyright infringement should be harmonized with offline crime, in order to offer better protections to businesses and send a clear message to deter criminals.
Last year, the government published a new draft of its Digital Economy Bill which provided for an extension of the current prison term of 2 years to a maximum of 10. At the same time, it was insisted that “regular” members of the public would not be subjected to harsh punishments, but for some reason the legislation does not read like that. According to the new law, anyone who makes infringing content available to the public and merely puts a copyright holder at risk of loss, is committing a criminal offense.
The Open Rights Group launched a campaign earlier in 2017 to ask the government to make amendments to target large-scale infringers while protecting the public, but with no result. Nobody agreed to make this minor change to the new law, even though legislation already exists for punishing even the smallest of copyright infringements via the civil courts. We’ll see how it works in reality.