Digital Economy Bill

UK’s Digital Economy Bill Can Jail Pirates On ‘Reasons’

The Digital Economy Bill could send a copyright infringer for up to 10 years in jail time. How will the bill affect file-sharers? We take a look at the latest bill.

At House of Commons, this week, the Parliament members debated the Report stage and Third reading of the Digital Economy Bill. The bill has a broader scope which can distress Internet users.

Reported by The Guardian, if the Digital Economy Bill passes, users in the UK will be banned from sites which portray certain non-conventional coitus acts, and websites which do not comply to prevent UK residents from accessing such content will be blocked.

The government’s main objective is to harmonize the penalties throughout offline and online infringements by increasing the maximum penalties from two to ten years prison time. The Digital Economy Bill published also included additional considerations.

As the section 107 titled “Criminal liability for making or dealing with infringing articles,” of the current law reads:

(2A)A person who infringes copyright in a work by communicating the work to the public—

(a)in the course of a business, or

(b)otherwise than in the course of a business to such an extent as to affect prejudicially the owner of the copyright,

commits an offense if he knows or has reason to believe that, by doing so, he is infringing copyright in that work.

The latest draft of the Digital Economy Bill does not amends or sufficiently defines ‘infringing copyright during the course of a business.’ Instead, in the course of law, they only need a reason to believe that someone infringes copyright while making a personal gain, gain for third-party, or exposing (such as uploading) the copyrights of an owner to the risk of potential losses.

(2A) A person (“P”) who infringes copyright in a work by communicating the work to the public commits an offense if P —

(a) knows or has reason to believe that P is infringing copyright in the work, and

(b) either —

(i) intends to make a gain for P or another person, or

(ii) knows or has reason to believe that communicating the work to the public will cause loss to the owner of the copyright, or will expose the owner of the copyright to a risk of loss.

In the draft, the words ‘gain’ and ‘loss’ are important. The draft defines them as:

(2B) For the purposes of subsection (2A) —

(a) “gain” and “loss” —

(i) extend only to gain or loss in money, and
(ii) include any such gain or loss whether temporary or
permanent, and

(b) “loss” includes a loss by not getting what one might get.

Similar amendments were presented for section 198 of the CDPA that deals with ‘Criminal liability for making, dealing with or using illicit recordings.’

The Crown Prosecution Service details the section as, “These are recordings made without the consent of the performer (i.e. piracy or bootlegging). Bootlegging is the recording, duplication, and sale of a performance such as a live concert stage performance without the permission of the performer.”

The references in the current legislation are amended to follow the section 198 detailed above.

(1A) A person (“P”) who infringes a performer’s making available right in a recording commits an offense if P —

(a) knows or has reason to believe that P is infringing the right, and

(b)either—

(i) intends to make a gain for P or another person, or

(ii) knows or has reason to believe that infringing the right will cause loss to the owner of the right, or expose the owner of the right to a risk of loss.

Similar to the amendments to section 107, to be criminally liable, an infringer will only need to ‘expose’ a copyright holder to the risk of potential loss, and not an actual loss.

Although members of Parliament have insisted that the legislative amendments won’t affect file-sharer, however, the amendments failed to exclude people who share a single copyright content, or a bootleg recording, from being held criminally liable by the state.

You can read the full Digital Economy Bill draft here. (180 pages – PDF)

Image: Wikimedia.org

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