THE DIGITAL ECONOMY BILL is now law in the UK having gained the royal assent necessary to become so last weekend, and with that comes the ability for the government to throw copyright pirates in jail for up to a decade.
While the overzealous new rules were keenly disputed by the Open Rights Group (ORG) when a draft of the bill was published last year, the government refused to soften its approach.
As a result, in theory it's now possible for copyright holders to pursue criminal cases for an infringer of any size (ie. that includes if you download and upload a single copyrighted movie via BitTorrent) if they "knows or has reason to believe that [they are] infringing copyright in the work, and…knows or has reason to believe that communicating the work to the public will cause loss to the owner of the copyright, or will expose the owner of the copyright to a risk of loss," according to TorrentFreak.
The government, for its part, has maintained that 'regular' members of the public won't be targeted with the new powers, but that does rather raise the question of why not accede to ORG's suggested changes in the first place in that case?
ORG's proposal was, essentially, to keep the bill as it stood, but include the requirement of the harshest penalties only being reserved for cases of commercial scale loss.
"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," the group said at the time
If, as the government says, it's not going to use the 10-year sentence against individuals simply for sharing files occasionaly, then the addition of the provision should have been welcomed, rather than consistently rejected. µ
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