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Advisor to the UK PM calls for tougher approach on illegal file sharing

Written by Rehana Ali on 29 January 2015

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The purpose of the Bill (introduced August 2013) is to update the law on intellectual property to match the advanced technological age we now live in and to provide further clarity for the related industries.

The politicians have identified the four main areas responsible for the current internet piracy problems, they are:

  • The obvious pirate sites.
  • The end internet users.
  • Internet service providers (ISPs).
  • Search engines.

In summary the debate identified and discussed the following:

Google criticism

Google has been heavily criticised for apparently receiving 50 Million take down requests in relation to illegal websites from the British Phonographic Industry and the issue of Google’s monopoly status in the UK was also raised, it was questioned whether the huge multinational was good for UK content industries with an indication that it was not.

Internet Piracy

The fact that the penalties in the bill for online infringement do not match the penalties for infringers in the physical world was highlighted, MPs called for the current maximum 2 year penalty for online infringement to be increased to 10 years imprisonment.

The conviction of Anton Vickerman was discussed, Vickerman (who made £50,000 a month though his website) was sentenced to four years imprisonment for large scale copyright infringement that he facilitated through the use of his website surfthechannel, FACT (the Federation Against Copyright Infringement) were involved in the conviction against Vickerman for conspiracy to defraud. It was highlighted that this level of conviction would not have been possible had the prosecution simply relied on copyright law.

Liability of ISPs and search engines

The prime ministers advisor (Mikle Weatherley) suggested an enforcement measure that would stop advertising and payment facilities on websites that hosted illegal content. He further suggested that the ISPs and search engines should be held accountable if they were found to be ignorant of known criminality.

Weatherley further commented:

“ultimately, we need to consider withdrawing internet rights from law breakers, along with imposing fines and as a last resort custodial sentences”,

It was however highlighted that a distinction must be drawn between punishing an occasional downloader and those who actually run the pirate websites, it was further clarified that a custodial sentence should be imposed for those who persistently downloaded infringing materials despite being issued with warnings.

In conclusion Weatherley stated in simple terms, that the public need to be educated on the fact that stealing Intellectual Property is wrong, whether the maximum 2 year custodial sentence is in fact increased is matter for further debate.

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