With the Digital Economy Act now law in the UK after the hastily approved Bill gained royal ascent, copyright pirates could soon be facing up to a decade in prison - that's longer jail time than the average burglar, street thief, rapist or all-round violent thug typically receives.
Indeed, it's not far off from the 12-years that a 'life' sentence now often amounts to these days.
While the over-zealous 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 hard-line approach.
As a result, in theory it's now possible for copyright holders to be able to pursue criminal cases against someone they claim has infringed their intellectual property rights, however trivially.
That includes, for example, if you download and upload a single copyrighted film via BitTorrent, of if the copyright holder merely "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.
People can lose their jobs, their homes, their life savings over casually instigated criminal proceedings. But the government, for its part, has soothingly cooed that ordinary members of the public won't be targeted with these new powers for what may be regarded as the mildest of infringements.
But that raises the question of why the government rejected ORG's suggested changes to the Bill when it was being debated in Parliament.
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 proven, commercial scale losses.
"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, the 10-year sentence won't be used against individuals simply for sharing files occasionally, then the addition of the provision should have been welcomed, rather than consistently and firmly rejected.
Indeed, the idea of the law in the UK is that it should be taken literally - if it's written in the statute, it's the law.
As a result, there have been plenty of examples in the past of laws being taken to extreme and often illogical conclusions, at the expense of the poor individuals who have been squashed under the steamroller of over-zealous enforcement.
So if the government doesn't, or didn't, want ordinary folk being hammered upon the anvil of this law's extraordinarily harsh punishments, it should never have been passed in the first place.
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