Government begins major piracy crackdown

July 20, 2015 | 11:25

Tags: #copyright #file-sharing #law #legal #p2p #peer-to-peer #piracy #prison

Companies: #government

The UK High Court has officially overturned a 2014 law which made format-shifting of content, in particular transferring songs from a CD to a file-based format, legal, at the same time as the government begins proposing 10 year prison sentences for anyone caught illegally sharing copyright content.

In a ruling (PDF warning) from the High Court, Mr Justice Green overturned the Copyright and Rights in Performances Regulation, a law introduced in 2014 which made it legal for the first time to change the format of your media without direct permission from the copyright holders - a particularly common method of filling MP3 players with music, by ripping the CD Audio tracks and converting them to MP3. A trio of industry lobbyists - the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors, the Musicians' Union, and UK Music - argued that this was taking food out of the mouths of starving artists, and should once again be banned - an argument with which Mr Justice Green has agreed, overturning the 2014 law and making content-shifting illegal once again.

The blow comes as the government launches a consultation (PDF warning) into changes to the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 which would increase the maximum custodial sentence available for those who share or download copyright content without the permission of the rightsholder from two years to ten - matching it to the penalties available for those found guilty of producing counterfeit physical goods.

'There is no doubt that copyright infringement is serious and there is no strong case for treating online infringement any differently to physical infringement. The links to other criminal behaviour are clear; criminal gangs are making vast sums of money through exploiting the creations of others, causing real harm to those individuals, their industry and the wider economy,' the government claims in its consultation document. 'The government believes that this change will send a clear message to rights holders and criminals that copyright infringement online will not be tolerated. This is furthermore supported by the Conservative manifesto commitment that sentencing should reflect the seriousness of the crime.'

The two moves come as Creative Content UK is scheduled to begin in the UK, with what pro-file-sharing site TorrentFreak describes as a 'broad anti-piracy PR campaign targeted at the general public' ahead of the launching of the Voluntary Copyright Alert Programme (VCAP) which will see ISPs sending warning letters to customers suspected of participating in the unauthorised sharing of copyright material.
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