OVERBEARING UK GOVERNMENT ministers have called for custodial sentences for persistent filesharing offenders.
The comments came during the second reading of the Intellectual Property Bill in the House of Commons, where the prime minister's IP advisor Mike Weatherley, MP told the House that there needs to be "some sort of custodial sentence for persistent offenders".
According to Torrentfreak, his remarks also included the suggestion that it is appropriate to start "withdrawing internet rights from lawbreakers", before Jerry Sutcliffe, MP began laying into Google for its perceived complacency on the issue.
"Millions of complaints [to Google] have not been dealt with," Sutcliffe said, a point underlined by John Leech, MP, who recalled "the complacent attitude taken by [Google's] representatives to the whole issue, as though it had nothing to do with them and was not their problem".
Helen Goodman, MP's counterpoint pleaded reason. "It is important that we distinguish between 14-year-olds in their bedrooms downloading two or three Justin Bieber tracks onto an iPod and people who make multi-billion pound businesses out of providing illegal material. It is not right to treat the two groups in the same way."
However, it appears that Mr Weatherley failed to see the distinction, declaring, "If we exhaust fines and other means of stopping persons downloading illegally, we must consider some sort of custodial sentence for persistent offenders and people who operate on a commercial scale."
In other words, he would like to see the bedroom downloader treated the same as the large scale counterfeiter.
The INQUIRER spoke with Loz Kaye, leader of the UK Pirate Party. He told us in a statement, "It is beyond belief that the coalition continues to swallow the copyright fundamentalist line uncritically. These draconian proposals of 10 years for 'digital copyright theft' are completely out of proportion. Compare to the 30 months that Stuart Hall got for indecent assaults on girls, for example."
Kaye went on to point out the potential for double standards in the policy, saying, "Equally, the calls for removal of 'internet rights' are chilling. Does Mike Weatherley not want people to fill in their tax returns? Is he unaware of the Universal Credit push to digital by default?"
According to Kaye, an Ofcom study has shown that copyright infringers spend more money online per month, £26 as opposed £16 for non-infringers.
He finished by saying, "We've come to expect this kind of thing from the Tories. But it is disappointing to see Lib Dems like John Leech, MP have joined in now on the call for illiberal sentencing. If the coalition really wants to help creatives, they should focus culture policy on artists, instead of the current cuts and empty rhetoric."
At the moment, the UK Government is seeking to protect the music and film industries whose cartels have been threatened by the advent of the internet. However, in reality, the creative industries need to stop asking the government for draconian copyright enforcement and change their business models to take advantage of filesharing as a valuable promotional channel, rather than try to stand against the tide in vain attempts to protect their feudal business models. µ
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