UK considers ten-year prison term for file sharers

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UK considers ten-year prison term for file sharers

Stronger stance on copyright infringement.

The British government is pushing for harsher penalties for file sharers, proposing to lengthen existing maximum prison terms from two years to ten to increase the deterrent for online copyright infringement.

A consultation document published by the Intellectual Property Office [pdf] said there have been calls from stakeholders to align the penal regime for online copyright infringement with existing ten year custodial sentences.

The UK government said it agreed with those calls as online copyright infringement is no less capable of causing serious harm than its physical counterpart.

It appears the harsher penalties would be directed towards site owners rather than individual infringers - the consultation document specificially refers to the Penalty Fair government paper that suggested offenders have "links to further criminality and seek to monetise their illicit activities online via advertising and subscription fees".

The ruling Conservative Party had pledged to introduce tougher sentencing for a range of offences, including copyright infringment, in its pre-election manifesto.

This is the second time ten year prison sentences for online infringement have been mooted in the UK.

In 2005, the Gowers review of intellectual property [pdf] proposed increasing the maximum custodial sentence from two to ten years, but the government at the time declined to implement that suggestion, as the policy then was to only imprison serious and/or dangerous offenders.

On top of two-year prison sentences, Britain also metes out unlimited statutory fines for copyright infringement.

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