Say no to 10 years for file sharing

Say no to 10 years for file sharing

New proposals to make online copyright infringement punishable by ten years in jail risk punishing users who share links and files online more harshly than ordinary, physical theft.

Prison for filesharers

In the past file sharers have been threatened with criminal charges, depsite not seeking any financial gain or running a business. They may be misguided, but we have to ask whether they are really posing a risk to the public and therefore deserving of a criminal conviction. Now in 2015 the Intellectual Property Office are suggesting people like them should face the posssiblity of a 10-year jail sentence.

What to say

Submitting your personal details to the form on this page, and on the next page compose a letter that will be emailed to the IPO's Copyright and Enforcement Directorate.

Please compose your own letter and add your own arguments, but feel free to use these as guidelines.

  • I object to the raising the sentence for online criminal copyright infringement to 10 years.
  • Criminal copyright infringement is unusual, as it does not require “intent” of causing harm. This can be very harsh especially as exaggerated claims of damage are easily be made. The phrase in the offence “affect prejudicially” is vague.
  • Until the offence requires intent, long sentences are an inappropriate threat. The IPO should recommend to change the law to require intent.
  • Businesses and individuals may refrain from legitimate activities because of the worry of extremely harsh setences
  • There are already criminal offences that deal with organized online infringers such as “conspiracy to defraud’
  • Copyright should be enforced, but it should not involve harsher sentences than other kinds of crimes.
  • There is no separation in the offence between different kinds of infringement, which opens the possibility of other kinds of copying, such as excessive quotation or incidental use, being included.
  • I ask for the sentence to be left as it stands.

As the Government puts copyright sentencing under review, they want to hear your what you've got to say.  And with only 1 question, you can have your say on this issue in 5 minutes.

Please email the Copyright and Enforcement Directorate via the form with the answer to this question:

"Should the maximum custodial sentence available for online and offline copyright infringement of equal seriousness be harmonised at 10 years?"

Thank you

We have had brilliant responses from our members to consultations before - particularly on copyright. Your responses have formed the law that brought us parody rights last year, and the copyright report in Europe this month.

You can read our consultation here, and our blog on this issue here.

Background: what’s the situation?

The IPO is consulting on proposals to increase the maximum prison sentence for criminal online copyright infringement to 10 years, aiming to match sanctions for online copyright infringement with physical copyright infringement. The logic being that similar offences should attract similar penalties—regardless of the platform used.

Whilst we agree with the IPO's logic, their proposals are problematic. The existing offence they are referring to, as outlined in section 107 of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act, can be brought against both:

  1. Criminals who deliberately infringe copyright by operating filesharing services; and
  2. People who share links and files so that they “affect prejudicially” the copyright owner.

This second offence is not only vague and broad in definition, but also requires no consideration of the intent of the offender.

It would be easy for a few misguided people to be caught up in this law. For those who share their karaoke songs with no criminal intent, to be threatened with the kind of lengthy sentence that hardened thieves and violent offenders often escape is just inappropriate. It also places excessive power in the hands of copyright enforcement organisations, who can claim to such individuals that their estimations of financial damage could result in a possible jail sentence.

Similarly, businesses who operate legitimately may be worried or threatened because of this “strict liability” offence. They cannot argue that they have no intention to harm. The stakes are very high.

ORG believes that if the IPO want to change the sentencing, they have to reform the underlying offence.

The question we have to ask is, are these people a risk to the public?

Credit for the image above: Kate Ter Haar CC BY 2.0