FAST welcomes consultation on copyright infringement | FAST

FAST welcomes consultation on copyright infringement

22 July, 2015

Government launches consultation on whether the maximum custodial sentence for copyright infringement should be increased from two to ten years

The Federation Against Software Theft (FAST) has welcomed the announcement from the Government that it intends to consult on the issue of custodial sentences harmonising online and offline copyright offences at a maximum of ten years.

The consultation focuses on changes to the penalties for offences under sections 107(2A) and 198(1A) of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. Currently online copyright infringement offences are punishable by a maximum of two years imprisonment. By comparison, the maximum custodial sentence for a serious criminal copyright offence offline is ten years.

Julian Heathcote Hobbins, General Counsel, FAST, commented: “If one looks back to 2006, The Gowers Review on Intellectual Property recommended that the enforcement regime should be both ‘effective and dissuasive’. Sanctions for criminals who infringe the rights of copyright holders for large-scale financial gain should naturally face a stiff penalty regime. But let’s be clear, this is not against the mistaken infringer or the end user.

“Since its inception, FAST has worked hard on behalf of the UK software industry to ensure that software is considered in the development of IP law, particularly on copyright, so we welcome involvement with this consultation,” he added.

Prior to the recent General Election FAST launched its ‘UK Software Industry: a Manifesto for Growth’, a ten point plan for the development of a sustainable domestic IT sector here in the UK.

“Plainly, the software sector cannot be ignored and is not exclusively the preserve of large global multinationals. Remedies such as this should be considered by the SME software developer against the pirate business. As we have seen with the growth of tech clusters in London, Cambridge and the North East, technology is a creative powerhouse born and bred here in the UK that needs constant nurturing within a policy and legal framework that will enable it to continue to flourish,” added Julian.

“The UK economy is made up of an increasing number of small technology businesses; notably 95 per cent of the 120,000 enterprises in the information economy sector employ fewer than ten people. This entrepreneurial community needs a strong legal structure to discourage serious and corrosive IP infringements and offer a backbone of support. FAST’s mission, since its founding, has been one of keeping the software supply chain clean, and large scale commercial piracy is an obvious threat to that. The FAST Software Manifesto included the take away of enforcement, deterrence and a legal framework to match technological challenges.

“This consultation process is an important step in this internet age and we will work with the Government to support its work to carefully consider these challenging areas of IP law. It seems proportionate for sentencing policy reasons to bring the online world onto the same footing as the offline.

“Illicit downloads are serious because the quality of a digital copy never fades. Illicit download site prices can almost match that of genuine sites. There is a need to improve for legal clarity to define the word ‘article’ at s107 of our copyright law to iron out ambiguity. Challenges remain about those who make money from mass infringement on the internet but may claim it is not a ‘business’ under copyright law,” concluded Julian.