The UK government has launched a review of the legislative and punitive response to piracy and copyright infringement, mooting an increase in maximum prison sentences from two to 10 years.
This is not the first time that such a suggestion has been made, having been introduced in the Gower Review of 2005.
Recent calls from Parliament and interested stakeholders about an increase in custodial sentences have raised the issue again. The government and the Intellectual Property Office hope that the Penalties for Online Copyright Infringement consultation (PDF) will settle the debate.
"The case for harmonising the maximum custodial sentence for physical and online copyright infringement goes back many years," reads the introduction to the document.
"The government at the time consulted, but did not make the change due to its policy to only imprison serious and/or dangerous offenders. It did, however, increase the statutory maximum fine from £5,000 to £50,000. This has subsequently been made unlimited."
More recent studies, including a review of the situation in May, found that piracy is often linked to larger, wide-scale criminal efforts, and can cause considerable harm to the industry.
@LNevilleRolfe In regards to copyright law changes; legitimate streaming services like Spotify have damaged the industry more than piracy.— Hammy Havoc (@hammyhavoc) July 20, 2015
"During the debate stages of the Intellectual Property Bill last year, the disparity between custodial sentences was raised once more and was matched by calls from stakeholders to change the law," said the review document.
"The government agrees that online infringement is capable of causing serious harm. [It] expects that increasing the maximum sentences available under the specific online copyright offence provisions would have a deterrent effect on criminals seeking to make money in this way.
"It will also provide real punitive action against those who continue to engage in criminal infringement."
There have been a number of recent initiatives and operations aimed at taking down pirates. The UK National Trading Standards eCrime team announced efforts in June to stop the exploitation of Facebook as a piracy marketplace.
A recent report from Arxan Security found that software piracy has increased by almost a quarter, and two UK men were arrested in December last year and bailed over the suspected leaking of a film called The Expendables.
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