Commercial infringement of copyright online should in future be punishable by up to 10 years in prison, ministers are proposing.
A consultation launched by the Intellectual Property Office and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills is calling for the present maximum sentence of two years to be significantly increased.
The aim is to bring penalties for online offences into line with equivalent large-scale crimes involving copyright infringement of physical goods.
Before the consultation’s launch on Saturday, the intellectual property minister, Baroness Neville-Rolfe, said: “The government takes copyright crime extremely seriously – it hurts businesses, consumers and the wider economy both on and offline. Our creative industries are worth more than £7bn to the UK economy and it’s important to protect them from online criminal enterprises.”
She added: “By toughening penalties for commercial-scale online offending we are offering greater protections to businesses and sending a clear message to deter criminals.”
The head of the police intellectual property crime unit, DCI Peter Ratcliffe, said: “Online or offline, intellectual property theft is a crime. With advances in technology and the popularity of the internet, more and more criminals are turning to online criminality and so it is imperative that our prosecution system reflects our moves to a more digital world.”
The UK’s creative industries, including film, television and music, support more than 1.6m jobs. The proposals aim to offer the creative industries further protection from large-scale online copyright offenders and provide a significant deterrent.
Eddy Leviten, the director general of the Alliance for Intellectual Property, said: “This consultation is very welcome as we feel there is a clear anomaly in the way that online copyright infringement by criminal enterprises is treated by the justice system.”
Online copyright infringement is dealt with under the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 and is punishable by a maximum of two years.
This article was written by Owen Bowcott Legal affairs correspondent, for theguardian.com on Saturday 18th July 2015 00.01 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010