back to article You CAN'T jail online pirates for 10 years, legal eagles tell UK govt

The UK government plan to jail online copyright pirates for up to 10 years has been attacked by legal boffins in a public consultation that ended yesterday. The British and Irish Law, Education and Technology Association (BILETA), said the idea was “unacceptable, infeasible and unaffordable”. The public consultation invited …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Of course it will work...

    The prison's are empty because all the "ex" criminals, fearing being sent down, no longer comit crime. We live in a utopia... whay!

    1. h4rm0ny

      Re: Of course it will work...

      Actually, it's really immaterial the state of the prisons because this isn't about stuffing lots of home downloaders in prison. They (when actually caught and prosecuted which is rare) get fines. The prison sentences handed out have been for large-scale profiting operations. One of the biggest was 7.5 years for someone who was selling pirated software (traded about $20m worth), another person got 4.5 years and they were routing their profits to a bank in Belize via a bank in Latvia - not exactly your typical teenage downloader. Even that guy who the Guardian got so indignant about being extradited to America to be charged with copyright infringement had made $230,000 in advertising revenue from his site. (And he still wasn't sentenced to prison).

      The reason for the harmonization is because it's silly to have different laws for the same thing done online as done offline when the effects are the same. It's not going to lead to swarms of people being sent to prison. Copyright infringers who get prison sentences are a tiny, tiny proportion of the total.

      1. Adam 52 Silver badge

        Re: Of course it will work...

        Prosecuting home downloaders isn't rare, it's non existent. That's because home downloading isn't a crime.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Not silly at all

        >The reason for the harmonization is because it's silly to have different laws for the same thing done online as done offline

        This reasoning is worthless. I'd much prefer having a grand stolen online from my bank account than being assaulted the ATM. Physical theft is a lot worse.

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: Not silly at all

          I think in the case of copyright material, production and distribution of digital media online can be done with relatively inexpensive equipment, compared to the physical offline copies which require expensive reproduction materials, storage and distribution costs.

          In other words, it's comparatively easy to set up as an online pirate, and more difficult to detect and stop. It would seem that threat of penalties is the only weapon that the lawmakers can come up with to deter it.

          I'm not justifying the whole thing, just recognising that digital and physical are different.

          Of course, with digital a pirate could set the whole thing up off-shore in a pirate-friendly territory and carry on business as usual without breaking any UK laws.

        2. h4rm0ny

          Re: Not silly at all

          >>"This reasoning is worthless. I'd much prefer having a grand stolen online from my bank account than being assaulted the ATM. Physical theft is a lot worse."

          In which case you are now comparing theft to theft + assault. Would it make any difference to you if you were assaulted and then had the money stolen online as well? Suppose someone stole the physical money without assaulting you, would you want someone to be treated less severely because they used a computer to do it?

          We spend half our time complaining about how the law and patent system applies a double-standard just because something was "done with a computer". Well now the law is catching up.

          1. Daniel B.
            Boffin

            Re: Not silly at all

            Suppose someone stole the physical money without assaulting you, would you want someone to be treated less severely because they used a computer to do it?

            That's exactly how the law works today. Theft + assault is dealt with more severely than simple theft. Breaking and entering a residence when the owner isn't at home is a lesser crime than breaking and entering when the owner is home.

            We spend half our time complaining about how the law and patent system applies a double-standard just because something was "done with a computer". Well now the law is catching up.

            Um... we spend half our time complaining that companies are getting patents for stuff that shouldn't even be patentable, like software. The law is just getting worse.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Of course it will work...

        "this isn't about stuffing lots of home downloaders in prison. They (when actually caught and prosecuted which is rare) get fines. "

        Please give some examples of any such cases?

        Downloading only isn't illegal at all in the UK, and is only illegal in the US if you download over $1000 worth in a month I believe.

        1. Daniel B.

          Re: Of course it will work...

          Please give some examples of any such cases?

          Jammie Thomas. It's in the link on my previous comment. Notice that 24 songs are worth $222k USD according to the MPAA/RIAA. So you might download 5 songs, but the Recording Industry Ass of America will find a way to turn them into something worth over 1000 USD anyway.

          1. TheVogon Silver badge

            Re: Of course it will work...

            "Jammie Thomas. It's in the link on my previous comment."

            The link clearly states he was prosecuted for sharing files (i.e. distribution), not for downloading.

            1. h4rm0ny

              Re: Of course it will work...

              >>"The link clearly states he was prosecuted for sharing files (i.e. distribution), not for downloading."

              Jammie Thomas is a woman, actually. But you are correct, she was prosecuted for distributing the content, not for downloading it. Other important things to note are that this was American trial and the point was to find any cases in British law which is what we're actually discussing, and that contrary to what was claimed by the OP, the initial fine was $5,000 dollars, not $250,000. It grew over the intervening years during which court cases were dragged out and turned over again and again during which she claimed that: she'd never distributed copyrighted material, that distributing the files had been fair use, and that there was no financial harm from distributing the material. There was also the fact she bought a new hard drive and tried to fake load it with data to swap it into evidence in place of the actual harddrive from her computer. Or my personal favourite - hiring a professor of computer science from a local university to testify that the files could have been shared by someone on the same local loop as her spoofing her MAC address.

              But like I say, not British law so not that relevant to this amendment. The OP will not be able to find cases of people receiving big prison sentences for downloading music in British law because there aren't any. To be honest, I'd be surprised if they managed to find cases of even tiny prison sentences for it. Maybe a couple of cases with special circumstances around them. Like I said elsewhere, what you get for small scale domestic piracy - in the rare case you get anything - is a fine. Even in this American case, that's what she initially got before she dragged it through a three-year court battle of escalating costs and outright perjury.

              1. TheVogon Silver badge

                Re: Of course it will work...

                "Jammie Thomas is a woman"

                Point taken . I have trouble keeping up with all these invented names / mistakes of illiterate parents that seem particularly common in the colonies...

        2. Vic

          Re: Of course it will work...

          Downloading only isn't illegal at all in the UK

          Yes it is. Section 17 of the Copyrights, Designs and Patents Act 1988 specifically outlaws all unlicenced copies of copyrighted materiel, even if incidental.

          Vic.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Regardless to arguments about the severity and damage of online copyright infringement demands such severe punishments BILETA's arguments just don't make sense (at least in this reporting). The question is whether there is a disparity in jail terms for online and offline copyright infringement.

    BILETA have responded by saying that obtaining proof of infringement is difficult and that there aren't enough prison spaces. Both of these arguments can be dealt with by the court system - this is a recommendation to change the *maximum* sentence not the default or average sentence. The judge/jury/lawyers will decide if a conviction is sound and lawful, and a judge with guidance will decide whether there is sufficient space to house the prisoner.

    We should not be using arguments against, for instance, jailing white collar financial crime based upon whether there is space in prisons. The argument should be about whether prison is the best punishment.

    Similarly BILETA would need to concentrate on whether there is or isn't a disparity between online/offline copyright infringement and whether there are any cases where 10 years would be considered acceptable.

    1. Gordon 10 Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      It dont make sense.

      I agree I thought the BILETA stuff was wishy-washy and whilst there a difficulties in proving who had a floating IP etc there have been successful cases in the past.

      BILETA could have just for both barrels of the Eurpoean Human Rights Act (plus it would automatically piss off the Tories - always a winner), and stopped right there. Although if that piece of analysis is as dodgy as the rest of it I'd want a second opinion from someone more qualified than BILETA appear to be.

      Not that I think downloaders should be jailed for 10 years - just that if BILETA's argument against it is the best one anyone can come it with - downloaders are f*cked.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm sorry

    But even 2 years is 2 years too long for such... "crimes" against humanity, let alone 10.

    1. Danny 14 Silver badge

      Re: I'm sorry

      kid was mown down by a drunk driver about 4 years ago just at the end of our street. Kid died and the driver got 2 years inside (and a ban but who cares about the ban plus he would have been out after a year on parole). So downloading a bunch of films is worth more than a kids life.

      Crazy.

      1. Triggerfish

        Re: I'm sorry

        I was thinking this, some poor lass down the road got bottled in the face a few weeks back by some drunk who actually did it through her car windscreen causing nerve damage to the face. The judge gave him a suspended sentence. Sort that shit out first.

      2. h4rm0ny

        Re: I'm sorry

        >>"So downloading a bunch of films is worth more than a kids life."

        No it isn't and you wont get ten years in prison for "downloading a bunch of files". You might get several years for conducting a large, for profit piracy operation however which are the actual examples you'll find of people having been given multi-year prison sentences for piracy. And the maximum sentence for "Causing Death by Dangerous Driving" which is what the actual charge is in the UK, is 14 years. That is since you're so fond of making comparisons based around absolute worst case scenarios.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I'm sorry

          That is since you're so fond of making comparisons based around absolute worst case scenarios.

          You've been reading too much of the Grauniad. It is a simple reality that serious and violent offenders ARE being let off due lack of prison capacity, and the vast majority of those who get sent down will be let out after serving 40-50% of what most people seem to agree is a lukewarm tariff in the first place. If your mother gets murdered, the criminal responsible will get "life" if he's UNLUCKY. But "life" in some bizarre civil service definition is fifteen years, so he'll be out in less than seven years.

          We certainly don't want a free for all in the area of non-violent crime, but the simple reality is that a law to make it feasible to send on-line pirates down for longer if pure window dressing, given that we can't put the serious offenders away for any decent length of time. Maybe you'd be happy with your mother's hypothetical murderer moving in next door to you, having "paid his debt to society", but personally I'm a "lock the fuckers up and throw the key away" sort of person.

          When the idiots of Westminster have actually sort out the existing criminal justice concerns, THEN I'm happy for them to turn their attention to protecting the financial interests of the likes of Sony Pictures and Ben Dover, in the meanwhile there's bigger fish to fry.

          1. Trigonoceps occipitalis

            Re: I'm sorry

            "If your mother gets murdered, the criminal responsible will get "life" if he's UNLUCKY."

            In the UK there is only one sentence for murder, life imprisonment. The judge sets a tariff before which release on license is not normally considered. On license murderers may be, and are, recalled to prison for infractions of their license. They are free for only a sub-set of "free".

      3. Anthony Hegedus Silver badge

        Re: I'm sorry

        The person who downvoted that comment

        "So downloading a bunch of films is worth more than a kids life."

        is a fucking idiot

        1. h4rm0ny

          Re: I'm sorry

          >>The person who downvoted that comment

          >>"So downloading a bunch of films is worth more than a kids life."

          >>is a fucking idiot

          I downvoted it. And did so because it's factually inaccurate and phrased to try and make this sound like something it isn't. You don't get two years for "downloading a bunch of films" nor will this amendment mean that you start to. And the maximum sentence for "Causing Death by Dangerous Driving" is 14 years. The poster is trying to make it sound like home piracy is treated more seriously than running someone over which is not the case. They either don't understand the law or, more likely, they're willing to misrepresent things with short sound-bites in order to bolster their preferred view. I bet they don't like it when politicians do that but they seem happy to do it themself.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I'm sorry

      The politicians say that I must go to jail for 10 years if I download a movie (major criminal), but if I simply steal a DVD, it would be a minor crime (in America) of shoplifting. I probably would not go to jail, but just receive a fine. The idea of 10 years in prison just shows what happens when a lot of money is thrown at politicians by the entertainment industry

      1. h4rm0ny

        Re: I'm sorry

        >>"The politicians say that I must go to jail for 10 years if I download a movie "

        No, they don't. The inability of some people here to grasp the basics of UK law is depressing; viz. that it allows a range of sentences so that discretion can be allowed and you can differentiate between someone who sells $20m dollars worth of software and someone who torrents half a dozen movies at home to watch.

        Also the inability to differentiate between mode, median and arithmetic mean.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: I'm sorry

          > viz. that it allows a range of sentences so that discretion can be allowed

          The discretion between the treatment of the director of a bank rigging LIBOR and a black teen shoplifiting?

          1. h4rm0ny

            Re: I'm sorry

            >>"The discretion between the treatment of the director of a bank rigging LIBOR and a black teen shoplifiting?"

            Yes. If one person downloads a movie and another sells millions of dollars of pirated software, you don't want the law to allow no differentiation between how you treat both of them. That's obvious and that's why you have the concept of a maximum sentence and a minimum sentence (in this case let off with a warning, fine or suspended sentence) and not some fixed penalty. I can't help thinking that whilst illustrating my point you somehow think you're disagreeing with me.

            1. Daniel B.
              Facepalm

              Re: I'm sorry

              Yes. If one person downloads a movie and another sells millions of dollars of pirated software, you don't want the law to allow no differentiation between how you treat both of them.

              Yet most "copyright infringement" laws have been modified to have the opposite effect. 20 years ago, sharing music wasn't copyright infringement because nobody was profiting from that. A couple of draconian laws later, single moms get slammed with six-figure fines and tractor owners might face jail time if they try to tinker with their tractors.

        2. channel extended
          Happy

          Re: I'm sorry

          My favorite pet peeve is those people who think they can average a group of averages.

          Ex: Two 2's is an avg of 2. Ten 10's avg of 10. Avg 2 and 10 is 6, avg of 2 two's and 10 tens is 8.666666. A 31 percent error.

          Many of the spreadsheets I get from Manglement often commit this error.I no longer point this out as I have been told I don't understand business, so go somewhere else.

      2. gnasher729 Silver badge

        Re: I'm sorry

        The thing that is wrong with your argument is that no politician says anything like that. What's the maximum time for an armed robber, and how many shoplifters get that time?

    3. This post has been deleted by its author

  4. msknight Silver badge

    I'm a creator and consumer...

    ...and to bring my long and detailed view down to a few badly crafted sentences...

    There will always be pirates, there will always be piracy. However, I think there is a reasonable portion of, "honest," folk who don't think they're damaging the artist because the bulk of the profit is swallowed by the man in the middle; the corporate.

    Change that model, and then you stand a chance of using the argument that you're hurting the artist ... I believe that would change the hearts of the average pirate; and then a chance that society as a whole might reject piracy as socially unacceptable.

    I remember when CD's first came out, there were rages at how little the artists were getting from sales of recordings ... and that's stuck ever since.

    1. Robert Grant

      Re: I'm a creator and consumer...

      Possibly, but that only applies to music. Not filmmaking, for example. You've picked the easy case.

      And even then, but there is lots of work to be done by the man in the middle, and record companies only make profits (and thus invest less per-artist) because they have a lot of scale.

      So for example, if you want to only sell music on iTunes and never have any large live events organised or radios playing your stuff, for example, then you...can already do that without a record label. You just won't necessarily make a lot of money doing it; probably much less than you would make working with a record company. It's when you want to do bigger stuff (such as a film or live concert) that you need capital investment and lots of experts and equipment and contacts.

      Some of these services may individually become commoditised (e.g. iTunes could facilitate pay-per-play for artists on the radio) but most are a long way off.

      The way to desocialise bootlegging is not to do it. All I do is say "no thanks" when someone offers me bootlegged content, and if you don't do that, then it could well be that you're recommending an impossible course of action (all media industry must vanish before I stop bootlegging!) just as an excuse to keep doing it.

      1. msknight Silver badge

        Re: I'm a creator and consumer...

        It also applies to books; which is my artistic enterprise. Sales through my publisher directly, net me a reasonable amount; I'm lucky to have a publisher who has a fair view of society, endeavour, etc.

        Plug that through Amazon, and you've got a serious drain on the revenue stream.

        Films are a different model ... artists are employees and paid a salary for their worth, and is a whole other argument to that of writers, musicians, or other artists from various fields who are relying on a percentage of the sales. Films are funded by investors who take a chance and front up the cash to the people that create it; the artists aren't reliant on the on-going sales ... unless they take a percentage of revenue as their payment and that's a chance they take ... but again it still holds. Indie film makers enjoy a different place in my heart than those of the big guns.

      2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        @ Robert Grant

        I beg to differ.

        Record companies make profits because they nail the artist to the wall and strip him of all rights to his creations for the duration of the contract. Then they proceed to milk him for all he's worth while it lasts, leaving him with pennies. Artists accept that because they are young, ambitious and ignorant of the consequences - and it seems to be their only chance at getting known.

        Only when an artist is sufficiently well-known to go solo does he start making money, because by that point he is capable of setting up his own recording company and giving the others the finger.

        That's why Madonna, Prince and every other music superstar have their own recording companies. If they still worked under their original contracts, they wouldn't be the multi-millionaires they are now.

    2. Daggerchild Silver badge

      Re: I'm a creator and consumer...

      I remember when you could get music/films without having to hand over your identity, and today you get frowned at for saying you want a physical copy instead of a virtual one.

      I really would like to pay artists, but have you seen the GoT Season 5 DVD release date?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You hit the nail on the head

      I once looked into publishing and how it works.

      An author writes a book, he gets around 6 - 7 % of the final price. His agent gets 15% of his 7%. that rises to 10% if you are someone like Terry Pratchett. (Tolkien is 50% because his original deal was half his own money) The rest is swallowed by the likes of Amazon which charged 72% of the price for listing it or doing the Kindle route etc. Most publishers are in the same ball park.

      Of the 10000 types of books (average) sold in the UK, 350 were (when I looked) horror, sci fi & fantasy. So Hollywoods biggest films are the smallest % of books sold.

      The man in the middle rips off everyone and the artists makes peanuts from his / her work. I support artists but I don't support the middle man who lets be honest, are not really doing anything anymore, they just happen to have cornered the market. Books for example I think there was 6 - 8 book printers (gets confusing with sub companies) in the world and they won't touch you without an agent, yet there is only something like a dozen agents in the UK that do some of the biggest genres.

      The market is so corrupt and one sided who cares about the man in the middle now. But 10 years when manslaughter gets you less, just daft.

      1. P. Lee Silver badge

        Re: You hit the nail on the head

        >I support artists but I don't support the middle man who lets be honest, are not really doing anything anymore, they just happen to have cornered the market.

        While I despise the fact, the problem is that people buy what they are given. Do you thin 50SoG would have sold anything if there wasn't a carefully crafted media campaign and someone paying to have the book placed front & centre all over the place? All of a sudden, the same words popped up on all media, "everyone is talking about it." Yeah, that's because they've been paid to do so. The middle man is risking a lot, but he's betting that he can out-promote the competition, not that the content of the book or film is any good. It takes a lot of money and organisation to orchestrate those radio stations, billboards and morning tv shows. They didn't need to sell all those copies of books because book production is a small fraction of the cost - the real cost is in the promotion - paying for product placement.

        The sad fact is that even a good book won't do that well without cash being splashed on advertising all over the place. Otherwise people get "Masterchef" poked in their eyes from all the billboards. That is what advertising is for, it is to make sure that someone can pay to exclude the competition from mindshare. When was the last time you saw and advert for something where the product had a feature you didn't already know about?

        Otherwise you might sit at the railway station or at a website and contemplate what is important in life. No one wants you to do that. At the top of your hamster wheel there is a sign that says "new & more", you just need to reach it.

        1. msknight Silver badge

          @ P.Lee

          You are correct ... but there are nuances going on here.

          It is the man in the middle that is in control of everything.

          The bloggers and reviewers, even the services that support the indies, have to bow to the man in the middle. They need to keep their servers running and the only financial support they get (certainly from the book world) is from Amazon ... so the links to my books which are on my publishers site, get surpressed in favour of Amazons links.

          As more of us stop viewing the mass market, the bill boards, the TV channels, the newspapers, and consume our information from the community itself (ok, even the communities free voice is add supported; but at least they're not censord, or forced to supply links to certain retailers over others) then we'll get less of this herding to perfered purchase vectors.

          We are buying from the man in the middle because we don't know where else to get our goods. Lately I've stopped buying from Amazon completely. A few extra minutes spent on a web search more often than not, bags me the same goods at a cheaper price, from a high street retailer.

          It is in OUR hands to change this. I know that I haven't got the money to pay for advertising ... but even if I did, I'd be very dubious about the return I'd be getting for my investment as we run add blockers etc. ... we HATE advertisements ... therefore we go straight to the easy retailers and fail to search ... we just hit the buy it now button.

          Social media HAS proven its worth in promoting people. Shades wouldn't have even been picked up if it wasn't for the community enthusiasm surrounding it.

          *sigh* and even this is a simplistic chop-down of what's going on.

          1. msknight Silver badge

            Re: @ P.Lee

            Here's two of my blog posts about how I saved money over Amazon with not much work...

            https://ello.co/msknight/post/NaKmKxDTce8KKF3v_DZSwA

            https://ello.co/msknight/post/SNK-1KY2X17Cjp4eWdFjVQ

            ...but as long as the money remains with the man in the middle, and tax avoidance drains society (we're closing libraries, etc.) then the only people to invest in anything, are the men in the middle, who can impose conditions on the service that means all the money comes to them anyway.

            If I didn't have a mortgage, then I'd be tempted to set up a kickstarter, because I do have a firm idea to shake up the book market, and I explained it to someone who runs an indie book review/recommendation service ... his problem is that he can't do anything about it, because he's one of the service that's tied to Amazon's strings; and they're not paying anywhere near enough for him to earn enough to eventually break free.

  5. mark phoenix

    Another attempt to pour your money down the drain

    Does anybody else think that the Government is not representing their voters

    Criminalising people for frivolous crimes is a horrendous waste of money and an affront to a civilised society

    eg

    o Publishing material which surely is a civil matter

    o Not paying their TV license - again this should be a civil matter

    The real issue is price.

    Make the BBC free and funny enough you have no criminals

    Lower the price of music/videos and people will be happy to buy high quality legit copies

    Put road tax on fuel and its not possible to avoid it and you pay for what you use

    There is always a smarter way of doing things.

    All Governments waste money and should be given as little as possible. Politicians certainly treat their own money differently to Taxpayers money ;)

    1. John G Imrie Silver badge

      Politicians certainly treat their own money differently to Taxpayers money

      A fix for the above.

      If the Parliament makes a loss then the MP's are jointly and severely liable for the loss. If Parliament makes a profit then 50% of the profit goes to the MP's. No new tax or increase in an existing tax's rate can be introduced with out a Plebiscite. The rules for the Plebiscite being valid will be the same as the rules for a Union calling for a Strike.

    2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Re: Another attempt to pour your money down the drain

      Nobody has paid road tax since 1935, and there is already a pay-per-how-much-you-drive system, it's call petrol. Drive more, use more petrol, pay more money.

      1. John Robson Silver badge

        Re: Another attempt to pour your money down the drain

        @J.G.Harston

        Whislt normally I'd be right behind you regarding the Car tax....

        The word is shorter, and it's more correct...

        Anyhow - in this case the idea is to shift the remaining VED onto fuel, an idea I fully support - but it would make the pump more expensive so...

        Even if it was done in a revnue neutral way (i.e. costs the motorists of the country less, since there would be less infrastructure required to collect it) the majority would object to seeing the pump price go up - despite the fact that it is inevitable that significantly more than half would be better off...

        1. Warm Braw Silver badge

          Re: Another attempt to pour your money down the drain

          >the majority would object to seeing the pump price go up

          The answer to that would be to fund the mandatory third-party element of insurance from petrol too. That would eliminate an entire further category of criminal.

          Of course, that just makes the tax gap worse when electric cars become the norm. That's the problem with technology - it keeps undermining established revenue streams.

        2. Vic

          Re: Another attempt to pour your money down the drain

          it is inevitable that significantly more than half would be better off

          That is most assuredly not inevitable.

          We've had the idea of VED being removed, and the loss of taxation being put onto fuel, in the past. It's always rejected, because the rise in fuel cost means that anyone that drives more than about 20 miles a year will be much worse off - the figures are always rigged. That is then used as an excuse to claim that the majority doesn't want the change - whereas really, the majority just doesn't want the specific values quoted.

          I very much doubt we will ever see car tax being replaced by an increase in fuel tax - simply because they're all keyed up for Road Pricing. Can't think why...

          Vic.

    3. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Another attempt to pour your money down the drain

      @Mark Phoenix:

      "Does anybody else think that the Government is not representing their voters"

      Somewhat and in general, not just on the subject of copyright infringement. But I also believe that the voters are not looking into in any details beyond headlines.

      Just look at this thread of comments and all those talking about prison sentences for home downloading a few films and records.

  6. King Jack
    Thumb Up

    Everyone is guilty

    Because it is illegal to rip cds and put dvds on a harddrive, everyone is guilty of copyright infringement and liable for 10 years inside. I welcome it as I have no pension. I will need a roof over my head and 3 squares. It will be cheaper than living in an old person's home. I thank the government for its forward thinking. I'll be turning myself in for 'punishment' on retirement.

    1. codejunky Silver badge

      Re: Everyone is guilty

      Whenever discussing pirating I always think back to films/DVD. Region locks, adverts you cannot skip, requires a dvd drive. Or streaming which requires a good connection and you dont own the copy so you need to 'rent' what they offer and have nothing to show for it in the end. Or pirate where the content is free, advert free, you have a copy and its less hassle all round.

      I dont pirate but I struggle to blame the people who do.

      1. 404 Silver badge

        Re: Everyone is guilty

        psst!

        playlater.tv

  7. John G Imrie Silver badge

    Crime and Punisment

    There is no doubt that copyright infringement is serious and there is no strong case for treating online infringement any differently to physical infringement.

    Figures taken from http://www.cps.gov.uk/legal/s_to_u/sentencing_manual/

    Wounding or Inflicting Grievous Bodily Harm 5 years

    Copyright Infringement 10 years

    Death by Dangerous Driving 14 years

    So off line Copyright Infringement falls somewhere between GBH and Death by Dangerous Driving and the Government wants to move online from below GBH to above GBH

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Crime and Punisment

      They're clearly just getting this in quickly before TTIP comes in; TTIP will say "actually UK, it's only 8 years in prison for downloading an MP3!", the government gets to go "well look, see how nice TTIP is compared to our old laws!" and everyone gets to live happily ever after.

      Everyone that matters anyway.

    2. gnasher729 Silver badge

      Re: Crime and Punisment

      "Wounding or Inflicting Grievous Bodily Harm 5 years"

      Wounding or Inflicting Grievous Bodily Harm with intent = 16 years. Don't know if you didn't realise this, or if you didn't mention it because it would have destroyed your stupid argument.

      But this is for a one off crime. Professional pirates don't do it just once; they do it every day until they are stopped.

  8. Mark Simon

    10 years?

    Stealing is, of course a Bad Thing, but somebody needs to get this one in perspective.

    First, copyright is virtual property, not like real property. Although it represents real work on somebody’s part, and some degree of hardship if not honoured, you can’t argue that it necessarily has the same impact as physical theft. The whole point of copyright is that it deals with additional copies of a product.

    Second, the value of copyright depends largely on popularity and willingness to pay, and not so much on intrinsic value. Putting a cost on infringement is often a matter of who can shout loudest.

    Finally, real crimes such as assault, abuse and manslaughter often attract lesser sentences. The problem is that the victims, especially the dead ones, generally have poorer resources, so don’t have the same ability to pressure politicians.

    1. John G Imrie Silver badge

      Stealing is, of course a Bad Thing

      But Copyright Infringement is not Stealing or Theft no matter what the scary advert at the start of your DVD says.

    2. PassingStrange

      Re: 10 years?

      What gets me most about utterly moronic pronouncements such as the one that prompted this whole discussion is the vacuous and unquestioning way in which so many apparently-intelligent politicians seem to have not only bought into the "copying is theft" meme, but the degree to which they seem prepared to accede to the very particular version of that tale being told by large corporate interests.

      Copying is not only not "theft" (a simple and perfectly clear concept that everyone understands, despite the best efforts of those with vested interests to redefine it as something else), but utterly fundamental to human society and culture. From the moment we're born, we learn most of what makes us who and what we are by copying. Talking; reading; what's acceptable and unacceptable behaviour in our society; what things and actions are safe, and what are dangerous. If we see a good idea, we adopt it. If our neighbour finds a clever way to keep the slugs out of his vegetable patch, we try it. If we hear a good joke, we pass it on. If we hear a good tune, we whistle, sing or play it. If we like the new style of clothing we see someone wearing, we imitate it. If someone coins a useful word, we use it. Copying things is one of the most fundamental aspects of human behaviour that there is. The entire (and very, very recent) concept of somehow not having a right to copy whatever we choose to is utterly artificial, and utterly at odds with everything that makes us who and what we are.

      Which is not to say that there's not a place for allowing someone to benefit from the fruits of their labour, up to a point - IF doing so benefits society as a whole. If it doesn't - well, no-one owes you, me, or anyone else (let alone some faceless corporation) a living. And most certainly not simply because having an artificial monopoly on something is the only way to achieve one.

    3. DavidJB

      Re: 10 years?

      And remind me, why is this a reason for treating online copyright infringement any differently than offline (physical) copyright infringement, which is the actual point at issue?

      1. Daniel B.
        Boffin

        Re: 10 years?

        And remind me, why is this a reason for treating online copyright infringement any differently than offline (physical) copyright infringement, which is the actual point at issue?

        Because online copyright infringement is mostly not done for profit. Copyright infringement, and in fact the whole concept of "copyright" was built upon the idea that you would own the rights to sell copies of stuff you created for a limited time (the "limited time" has been subverted by every single copyright extension where the term is "life + something" as opposed to "a fixed length of time"), and it was made to avoid someone else making a profit off the original creator's work. For a limited time. Once those works fell into the public domain, anyone would be able to copy 'em and make a profit.

        Most of what passes as copyright infringement these days has the whole "profit" part cut away, which is why it wasn't even considered before the DMCA and similar laws. Yes, it does hit content creators, but the "1 illegal copy == 1 lost sale" rule gets kinda murky there. Sometimes, that illegal copy causes the "pirating" party to actually buy a legit copy later down the road. Yet the RIAA/MPAA trade bodies still want to slam these kind of infringment cases under the same case as actual copyright infringment cases (i.e. the ones made for profit). Which ends up causing really stupid things, like that single mother getting $222k fines for 24 songs. A far milder option would be to simply ask the person who has the illegal copies to "go legit", that is, actually purchase the stuff at normal prices, not magic inflated prices. Then maybe, MAYBE you'll get some goodwill back from the people you alienated in the first place.

  9. CAPS LOCK Silver badge

    It appears the gubmint is doing the wishes of the record, tv and film industries.

    I wonder why. Trebles and directorships all round.

    1. John G Imrie Silver badge

      Re: It appears the gubmint is doing the wishes of the record, tv and film industries.

      Well yes. They have pissed of the Banks so will have to look else ware for their Directorships.

  10. earl grey Silver badge
    Flame

    whattya gonna do when they come for you

    Seriously, once they have half the population in chokey for copyright infringement, who's going to be left to vote for the numpties who recommend this? Don't forget, you'll have to keep the kiddies in their own little gaol and not in with the adults.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: whattya gonna do when they come for you

      Seriously, once they have half the population in chokey for copyright infringement, who's going to be left to vote for the numpties who recommend this?

      The old and the technically illiterate - whoops I think I have just described the tories key demographic

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: whattya gonna do when they come for you

        Or the TAW*s who really want Corbyn to lead them into the marshes. They exhibit skill levels and understanding levels of what really matters TV and chips.

        Still when we all celebrate the advantages the Venezuelans enjoy from economic miss management with shortage of every (nationalised) product we can all jump for joy. Just stock up on a few essentials while you can, loo paper for example.

        Of course everyone's hate figure Gove also wants to decriminalise the TV license mess, now which party was he from?

        Will the numpty party of honourable lefties be after a left hand vs right hand law? Do a crime with your left hand and get 2 years, do it with your right hand and get 10 years. That was the level of the disparity involved with the present mess passing itself off as copyright laws.

        Is that right? I doubt that should be the way things are.

        *Tax and waste party who love extracting taxes and pouring them down hole in the ground, like coal mines

    2. Zmodem

      Re: whattya gonna do when they come for you

      only 10% of people over 18 bother voting

  11. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

    I think a more reasonable figure is how long behind bars would somebody get for nicking a stack of CD's from HMV and selling them? I'd guess it would be a suspended sentence for a first offence?

  12. Sir Sham Cad

    Re: Trebles and directorships all round.

    You also missed "Generous donation to the Party coffers".

    After all once you've got Your Man in government you want to keep him there at least until he's done everything you're payin^W lobbying him to do.

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Re: Trebles and directorships all round.

      My guess is that the Tories won't need that much in the coffers for the next election if JC (the saviour) is elected to lead the Labor Party.

      But yes the greasing of the palms of all political parties is a problem.

      I wish that HMG would tell the media companies to get stuffed and start living in the real world (not that the MP's are even on this planet most ofthe time).

      The fact that pretty well everyone with a mobile phone has some potentially illegal content on their device (format switched from a legal source) makes the law an ass.

  13. Tony S

    Just as a technical aside

    Contrary to what a number of people seem to think (including the government), there is no such thing as "British Law". Scotland and Northern Ireland have to have separate Acts of Parliament (and Wales sometimes). Generally what they refer to is actually English Law which sometimes might not apply in the other Home nations.

    BTW, I understand that BILETA is an organization, so they can use the phrase "British Law", even though it doesn't exist.

    1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Re: Just as a technical aside

      You can use "British Law" to mean "the law in British juristictions", note the plural.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Just as a technical aside

        The same way you can use "European Law" to apply to regulations handed down by Brussels which affects all or most community members.

        Nothing wrong with "British Law".

      2. Tony S

        Re: Just as a technical aside

        The word is jurisdictions. The phrase would be "UK law"

    2. Julian Bradfield

      Re: Just as a technical aside

      Much UK law applies to both Scotland and England (and the other bits). In particularly, copyright law is the same in both. Ever since the Union, UK statutes have said which bits of the UK they apply to.

      1. Tony S

        Re: Just as a technical aside

        There is a difference in the way that the law works in Scotland and Northern Ireland, as compared to England; and that is why there have to be separate statutes, because they need to take those differences into account when drawing the statutes up.

        But as you say, it is UK Law, not British Law; they are not the same thing

  14. sisk Silver badge

    If anything I'd say that the offline piracy maximum sentence should be dropped to match the current 2 year one for online piracy. It is, after all, a relatively minor crime. It's morally questionable, but the actual damage done by an individual copyright infringer is so negligible that it takes tens of thousands of them for it to make a noticeable impact.

    1. Lyndon Hills 1

      If anything I'd say that the offline piracy maximum sentence should be dropped to match the current 2 year one for online piracy. It is, after all, a relatively minor crime.

      I think the long (10 year max) sentence here is to cope with individuals who duplicate 100s/1000s of copies and sell them. The same theory might also apply to, for example, sellers of fake Rolexes, Gucci bags and so on. The key point being that a stiff sentence is available for individuals who seek to make a profit from copyright infringement.

      Realistically you won't get 10 years for copying a DVD for a mate, you won't even be prosecuted unless you're unbelievably stupid.

      1. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

        If someone copies and sells 1000 DVDs, what is the damage? Let's say the copyright owner lost £10000 of revenue, to be generous. Is that a crime worth 10 years in jail? I guess that scale should in that case also apply to MPs making fraudulent expense claims?

        If, on the other hand, its mainly about making an example out of the villains, I would argue that that is exactly what corrupt MPs would need.

        1. gnasher729 Silver badge

          If someone copies and sells 1000 DVDs, there is the damage, there is most likely tax evasion, and maybe you can explain why people would bother going to work if instead they could just set up a little copy shop and make their money that way.

          But what you are missing is the tiny gap between the guy selling 1000 DVDs with no danger at all to get 10 years in jail, and the guy building a major operation selling a million DVDs.

    2. xerocred

      Fake goods

      Virtula (information) is not same as (physical) selling counterfeit medicine, fake jet engine components, fake high tensile bolts for nuclear reactors or shipping industry is not the same as virtual goods...

      It's not like British Airways bit torrents the airplane control software either. Or the NHS doctors pirate audiobooks how to remove appendix...

  15. Efros

    Custodial sentencing

    Is expensive (about £65k a year) and the UK already is the leading turnkey in Western Europe (148 per 100k of population), we should be looking at alternative means by which the infringers can be punished. The market they are operating in needs also to be examined, if there is such a demand for pirate material then that would tend to suggest that the legitimate suppliers are not delivering the goods in terms of cost or timeliness.

  16. Jkoo

    Make it steamy

    Like Gabe Newell said: piracy is almost always a service problem and not a pricing problem.

    Make your service more convenient and people are happy to pay for it. See: Netflix, Steam, Spotify(to some extent)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Make it steamy

      "piracy is almost always a service problem and not a pricing problem."

      If you think about it, piracy is quite wrong. It is akin to smuggling.

      Smuggling is often an intermediation problem.

      On one hand the producer; on the other the consumer. In the middle an unholy collection of middlemen taking a cut. The collection of middlemen raises the end price without adding any value, so someone who can take a shortcut has an advantage.

      Digital media and the Internet provide the means for disintermediation.

      The problem for both producer and consumer is that the huge cuts of the middlemen give them the ability to bribe officials to maintain the status quo, while the disintermediators get much less money and can't afford to buy influence.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I encourage everyone here to write to their MP. That, at the end of the day, is the only way we the great unwashed voting masses stand any chance of correcting this broken thinking.

    It would be hard to argue, for example, that the people running TPB aren't helping others commit copyright infringement. Likewise I think it's easy to argue that TPB has caused significant lost sales of films, music, etc although how significant is a matter of debate. The problem I have with a ten year jail term is that no one died. Ten years is a long time behind bars for depriving some empty headed celeb of their third mansion.

    1. Vic

      I encourage everyone here to write to their MP. That, at the end of the day, is the only way we the great unwashed voting masses stand any chance of correcting this broken thinking.

      I'm not going to argue with your advice, but I am going to question its efficacy.

      I wrote to my MP over Phorm. This was clear criminal behaviour that was simply being ignored. My MP[1] wrote back with some boilerplate crap about how copyright infringement had to be curtailed...

      Vic.

      [1] John Denham, now retired.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    uk huh?

    Only 10 years? Well the case law is settled in the US that this is fine. Of course our brown and poor people hating justice system is not exactly the shining model in the developed world.

  19. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
    Flame

    TEN YEARS!

    TEN *&%^$^&ING YEARS FOR PIRACY?????????????????????????

    I know a scumbag who got involved in kiddie fiddling and child porn.

    He was caught and done for it.

    Because he pleaded guilty to everything , he got an 8 year sentence, later increased on appeal to 10

    So in the media morguls minds , ripping and copying game of thrones is the same as molesting children.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What do we want?

    Ownership of stuff we've payed for and the ability to watch it how, where and when we want and maybe the ability to show it to friends if we like it so potentially they may go and buy it.

    What will we get?

    10 years.

    To be honest I've given up on government, they are a bunch of self-serving arseholes who do nothing for the people they are supposed to represent. Call this democracy but lets be honest it probably never existed. Every advancement by the people and for the people has been achieved through violent confrontation, I can think of no advancement that was offered and given by any government that didn't also serve themselves.

  21. stringyfloppy

    They seem dead-set on being able to treat someone who downloads music using Google as an MP3 search engine the same way as they treat someone who manufactures illegal CDs and sells them on the street for cash. These are two incredibly different things. They need to stop using the word Piracy. It's so very vague - do they mean rum-drinking?

    1. Vic

      They need to stop using the word Piracy. It's so very vague

      Au contraire, "piracy" is very well-defined. It is a crime of violence on the high seas, and has nothing whatsoever to do with copyright infringement.

      Sexing things up is the modern way in government...

      Vic.

      1. xerocred

        "Sexing things up is the modern way in government..."

        Indeed, a 'weapon of mass destruction' is now defined as having more than a quarter ounce of explosive.

        (The UK started a war with Iraq over WMD)

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Mike Weatherly - The man who's ex-wife was/is a prostitute.

    http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/tory-mp-mike-weatherleys-wife-245521

    1. h4rm0ny

      So what if she was? Were the Daily Mail forums full?

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Can't you read, it's the Mirror or are you politically challenged as to which end of the spectrum it belongs ?

        It begs the question is Mr Weatherly a responsible person ? Besides go digging on Mr Weatherly and just how tied in he is with the copyright mafia.

        Google his name and Motion Picture Licensing Co Ltd

        and see here

        http://www.theyworkforyou.com/regmem/?p=24889

        Also worked as the finance director of record producer Pete Waterman’s empire.

        https://torrentfreak.com/uk-pms-ip-advisor-wont-stand-for-re-election-140703/

        “It's the job of the newspaper to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”

        E.K. Hornbeck

        1. h4rm0ny
          Thumb Down

          >>"It begs the question is Mr Weatherly a responsible person ? Besides go digging on Mr Weatherly and just how tied in he is with the copyright mafia."

          No, it doesn't. Someone marrying a woman who used to be a prostitute does not indicate they are morally flawed. That kind of Righteous Superiority says a lot more about your own tendency to throw around puritan judgements than it does about her or him. Honestly, I find that kind of temperament disgusting.

  23. JaitcH
    FAIL

    Cameron actually fighting BitTorrent? If so, he is losing

    I am a pretty heavy BitTorrent user downloading various film and video we could not otherwise see. This is because the films are simply not shown in many Indochinese region countries.

    Same applies to books, although a number would be seized under censorship/importation laws of physically imported.

    This morning (at 02.00H UK time) there were several thousand BitTorrent users from the UK on-line, openly transmitting/receiving the forbidden fruit.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wrong problem?

    Artistic copyright in the UK lasts for at least 70 years from the death of its creator. Some corporations have apparently found a way to extend copyright even further- even though they aren't the original creators.

    Patents for inventions are typically only in force for 20 years from the filing of the application.

    This would suggest that artistic copyright is unduly generous and does not discriminate about the category of the work. Something like a film or recording usually makes its return on investment, if at all, in probably the first couple of years. Releasing films in all regions at the same time would reduce some incentive to pirate.

    ***I recognise this just raises more questions than it answers.

  25. Gis Bun

    You have to wonder if given the max of 10 years for a cybercrime should be lengthier than rape, manslaughter [UK equivalent] or other more serious convictions.

  26. The_Idiot

    I've seen...

    ... a number of comments here along the lines of 'don't get your knickers in a twist. This isn't intended for home downloaders, only for mass copiers.'

    Well, I'm sure those comments are made sincerely and meant as they are posted.

    However, I've seen things like that rather more than once too often for my liking. And seen laws justified on 'well, we only want to apply it to X, so don't worry' turn into things applied to everything from Y through K through dog biscuits. And yes, I'll use 'only for terrorists' RIPA as an example, and I'm sorry I have, but there you are. There are others.

    Laws tend to be phrased in such a way that apparent 'unintended consequences' and scope creep aren't really 'unintended' but more both eagerly anticipated and quietly (on behalf of the authorities) accepted.

    So it may in fact be as those sincere and genuine commenters I mention above indicate - or it may not. But the impact of not, compared to the fact that there are already laws in existence surrounding the issue, leads me to prefer such 'new ideas' die the death. Of course, I'm an Idiot....

    1. SleepyJohn
      Big Brother

      Re: I've seen...

      "Of course, I'm an Idiot...."

      No, you're not. Most, if not all EU law is framed precisely like that for the precise purpose of enabling them to imprison anyone they dislike or fear, on some trivial pretext like selling a pound of bent bananas. "Don't be silly," they mock, if you object. "The maximum penalty is only to keep things tidy, we would never actually do that."

      It is those who believe such 'reassurance' who are the idiots.

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: I've seen...

        What we really need to back that statement up is an example of somebody getting years in prison for a trivial first offence, where the sentencing guidelines allow a broad sliding scale.

        Because without citing examples, it smells of BS.

        1. SleepyJohn

          Re: I've seen...

          The lack of examples simply means they have not done it yet. The fact that they can do it should be quite sufficient concern without having to prove they already have. I think that guy who wrote The Rotten Heart of Europe might have a thing or two to say on the matter. Not to mention the senior EU auditor whose name escapes me.

        2. OrientalHero

          Re: I've seen...

          http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/personal-view/3620110/The-police-must-end-their-abuse-of-anti-terror-legislation.html

          Heckling protester at a Labour political party conference in Brighton arrested under Terrorism act.

          They mention other instances in the article.

  27. JustNiz

    >> This led Mike Weatherley MP, IP adviser to the prime minister, to conclude that ... Until this is changed, online crime will be seen as less significant than traditional theft.”

    ummm... Could that be because (no matter what Sony etc would like you to believe) making illegal copies of something actually isn't legally or logically the same as theft?

    The guy is either a moron and/or has sold out to the RIAA/MPAA. Either way we need to get blatantly corrupt/clueless idiots like this out of government positions ASAP.

    1. Vic

      The guy is either a moron and/or has sold out to the RIAA/MPAA

      And.

      Vic.

  28. Tromos
    Facepalm

    There is another way

    If harmonising the maximum penalties for both the online and offline versions of the crime is necessary and raising the 2 years to 10 is seen as undesirable, why has no-one considered dropping the 10 years to 2. Obvious solution is obvious.

    1. h4rm0ny

      Re: There is another way

      >>"If harmonising the maximum penalties for both the online and offline versions of the crime is necessary and raising the 2 years to 10 is seen as undesirable, why has no-one considered dropping the 10 years to 2. Obvious solution is obvious."

      Because example cases where multi-year sentences have actually been handed out are for things like trading in $20million of pirated software, channelling £50,000 advertising revenue per month through Latvian banks to South American-registered companies, etc. So reducing everything down would put all this substantially lower than comparable crimes where you charged someone for the same thing under Fraud laws, etc. Do you also want to treat people more leniently for ripping off millions via fraud? Because otherwise your suggestion leads to two people committing equally damaging acts but one being treated wildly differently. And then if you're making fraud less of a crime, that's going to lead on to others in turn.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fine/prison

    As a general rule, prison should be for people who can't be deterred with a fine: violent sociopaths and the like, and also the typical bank robber. Commercial copyright infringement, like tax evasion, could probably be tackled with a combination of fines and a decent detection rate.

    By the way, someone who writes "differently to" (rather than "differently from") can't, in my opinion, be taken seriously.

  30. Zmodem

    most movies are crap, wait until they are on ebay for £2 for the blu ray

    1. h4rm0ny

      And that's a fine thing to do. It's all the people who say movies / music / software is crap and not worth paying for and then torrent the Hell out of them that are the problem.

      1. Zmodem

        they grow out of it in the early 20s, most of what they pirate they can`t buy any way, being able to bulk buy aload of random junk kills your lunch breaks

        1. Zmodem

          waiting a week to download a DVD rip with 10,000 seeds soon becomes a waste of time for the sake of a few pounds

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "It's all the people who say movies / music / software is crap and not worth paying for and then torrent the Hell out of them that are the problem."

        In that case, they wouldn't have bought them anyway then, so no one has lost anything and therefore they are not a problem.

        1. Zmodem

          especially games that are £60 for no reason, should still be £35

          COD uses 70% of the same models from game to game

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In the interests of evidence-based policy-making

    Anyone who proposes long prison sentences should be given one

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Lots of uninformed people here.

    10 years is a MAXIMUM sentence. This gives a range of options on punishment length depending on the crime.

    The law would state: "not exceeding ten years" so big criminal organisation gets ten, wee John with 1000 movies gets six months.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019