REMEMBER THE CONCERNS THAT THE UK Open Rights Group (ORG) had about the Digital Economy Bill? Perhaps you shared some of them? Your government doesn't, and is sticking to its misfiring guns and pushing ahead with legislation that is ambrosia for copyright holders and a lot of potential overtime for UK prisons.
The ORG is campaigning against the Digital Economy Bill like a labrador campaigns for food. It is against the legislation and believes that it is full of all sorts of problematic reasoning and punishments. Not least of all 10-year sentences for copyright infringement.
It has raised some of these concerns with the Intellectual Property Office (IPO), but the IPO has not responded in a way that made it happy, saying that it is happy to stick with long chokey sentences for copyright infringement.
"A large number of emails have been received about government plans to equalise the maximum sentence for online and physical copyright infringement at 10 years," offers the IPO by way of response.
"The Open Rights Group (ORG) campaign focuses on two areas. Firstly that an increased sentence may result in an increase of so called ‘copyright trolls' threatening court action. Secondly, that the copyright clause within the Bill criminalises minor copyright infringement…
"Infringement of another person's copyright in the circumstances covered by the redrafted criminal offences is already covered by existing criminal offences. The proposed measures in the Digital Economy Bill clarify the existing offences and take into account concerns that the ORG raised with government during consultation. Copyright owners are entitled to enforce their rights."
ORG confirms that a large number of letters went out, and expressed its disappointment over the IPO's missed opportunity to comment more and explain itself better.
"The IPO has responded to your letters to the minister Jo Johnson MP about the new 10 year sentences for online copyright infringement," it said.
"In the bill, 10-year sentences are available where online publication of a copyright work means that a "loss" has occurred (including not paying licence fees) or a "risk of loss" is created. We do not think the IPO have adequately explained why they cannot or should not introduce a threshold for criminality."
This isn't all about sharing copies of the Expendables 3 online, (believe us it's not worth a tenner, nevermind 10 years), and the sentences could be levied on bloggers who just happened to use a copy protected image by mistake, or used an element of something for the purposes of parody.
The IPO would see the same heavy book thrown at all copyright criminals, except in some circumstances.
"10-year sentences would only be applied in the most serious of criminal circumstances. It is highly unlikely that small, unintentional infringement would be caught by this offence," it said.
"A person who believed that their acts fell within a copyright exception, such as that relating to criticism or review or quotation, would not be guilty of an offence.
It would not be practical for the government to set a specific level of loss or gain at which infringement becomes a criminal offence. This is because the circumstances of each infringement needs to be taken into account."
This is so much blah according to Jim Killock, executive director at the ORG, and he wants to know why the IPO won't bend on, or properly explain the 10-year maximum sentence, despite the risk to innocents and the threat of copyright trolls.
"ORG supporters asked for small and sensible changes to the Digital Economy Bill, which would reduce the risk of ordinary people facing the threat of criminal charges," he said.
"The IPO haven't adequately explained why they cannot or should not introduce a threshold for criminality. Without these changes, we could see people being exploited by copyright trolls and threatened with prison sentences for minor offences." µ
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