London
06 March 2017
Reporter: Barney Dixon

ORG and UKIPO clash over 10-year sentences


Changes must be made to the criminal online copyright provisions of the Digital Economy Bill to prevent minor infringers from serving up to a decade behind bars, according to the Open Rights Group (ORG).

ORG argued in a blog post that the UK government should adjust its proposals to set a “threshold of ‘commercial scale loss’” to give the public, lawyers and courts a “clear indication that minor acts of file sharing or unlicensed online publication would be unlikely to meet the thresholds of ‘serious risk’ or ‘commercial scale’ losses”.

Such a threshold would make it harder for minor infringers to be sentenced to the new standardised 10-year maximum sentence for online and physical copyright infringement.

The UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO) responded in a statement to ORG’s claims that the new 10-year sentence for online infringement could be handed out to minor infringers, stating that it is “highly unlikely that small, unintentional infringement would be caught by this offence”.

“A person who believed that their acts fell within a copyright exception, such as that relating to criticism or review or quotation, would not be guilty of an offence,” the UKIPO said.

Jim Killock, executive director of ORG, said the UK government hasn’t “adequately explained why they cannot or should not introduce a threshold for criminality”.

"ORG supporters asked for small and sensible changes to the Digital Economy Bill, which would reduce the risk of ordinary people facing the threat of criminal charges.”

“Without these changes, we could see people being exploited by copyright trolls and threatened with prison sentences for minor offences.”

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