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British Government Considers Tenfold Increase To Copyright Penalty 154

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the bigger-stick dept.
Out-Law is reporting that the British government is planning to increase the maximum fine that can be awarded for online copyright infringement tenfold. "The Government and the Intellectual Property Office (UK-IPO) are consulting on the plans, which would allow Magistrates' Courts in England and Wales to issue summary fines of £50,000 for online copyright infringement. The larger fine is proposed for commercial scale infringements, where the person involved profits from the infringement. The plan would implement another of the recommendations of the Gowers Review of Intellectual Property, the 2006 report by former Financial Times editor Andrew Gowers which has been the foundation of intellectual property policy since its publication."
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British Government Considers Tenfold Increase To Copyright Penalty

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  • Why? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 15, 2008 @02:08PM (#24618693)
    Why is this tagged "patents"? A patent != copyright != trademark. Sure, they're all intellectual property, but they're not the same!
  • not news. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Kingrames (858416) on Friday August 15, 2008 @02:11PM (#24618749)

    nobody here cares if you prosecute people who are making money off your patents/copyrights.

    we only care that they stop prosecuting their customers.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Darkness404 (1287218)
      But it only takes one step to go from making money on copyrighted works to downloading copyrighted works.

      Take a look at censorship:

      Harmful for children becomes harmful for good citizens becomes harmful for you becomes harmful for the state.

      Just because it starts out with something small doesn't mean that it won't keep growing.
      • by Kingrames (858416)

        It's perfectly acceptable to think that you should be able to control what your kids watch on tv, to some extent.

        That's "censorship" but it's by no means extremist censorship.

        In fact it's perfectly acceptable.

        If you oppose this because you're afraid of what it could become, then you've lost touch with reality. There has to be a boundary line, a threshold that can't be crossed, and you have to be willing to accept that these copyright holders can't have people selling their property for profit.

        If you aren't

        • It's perfectly acceptable to think that you should be able to control what your kids watch on tv, to some extent.

          I was talking about government-imposed censorship like what the FCC does.

          If you oppose this because you're afraid of what it could become, then you've lost touch with reality. There has to be a boundary line, a threshold that can't be crossed, and you have to be willing to accept that these copyright holders can't have people selling their property for profit

          Yes, but is a tenfold increase necessary? Nope. It makes sense for if I am selling pirated books knowing that they were pirated I might have to pay a $500 fine to the copyright holders and give them all of my income from those books. Not I have to pay a $100,000 fine.

          • It makes sense for if I am selling pirated books knowing that they were pirated I might have to pay a $500 fine to the copyright holders and give them all of my income from those books. Not I have to pay a $100,000 fine.

            Surely it depends on the scale of the infringement? It wouldn't be much of a deterrent if the fine for catching a train without a ticket was only the ticket price + 10%. It wouldn't be much of a deterrent if the penalty for fraud were only returning what you had illegally taken plus a $10 court fee. Statutory, punitive fines like these are only worth anything as deterrents, and they have to be set on a scale that reflects this.

            • Re:not news. (Score:5, Interesting)

              by Artifakt (700173) on Friday August 15, 2008 @04:47PM (#24621069)

              I agree that penalties need to be significant enough to provide deterrence. In the U.S., there's a rule of thumb frequently used, which allows for triple damages in cases where, for example, simple negligence gives way to criminal levels of negligence. I think that is derived from English common law so the U.K. probably has similar principles in some areas of modern law.
                    But often, that idea means instead that the penalty becomes stiffer if the tort or crime is one that most of the time goes unpunished or uncorrected.
                    This can end up resulting in punishing more severely anyone breaking a law the public often disagrees with. If the public (or a big segment of it) actually doesn't want to turn in people committing crime X (i.e. drug use), then the additional penalties would get adjusted upwards to make up for that reluctance. The U.S. already has some penalties like this - for ex. the HOPE tax credit, which the taxpayer can't get if the student was ever convicted of a drug related felony, but could theoretically still claim if the student was convicted of rape, murder or even treason.
                    The fact that a large minority disagrees with a law, and might passively disregard it, should make the government think the law might be too harsh, rather than serve as an excuse to make it harsher.

          • by Kingrames (858416)

            "Yes, but is a tenfold increase necessary? Nope."

            Well, they have to keep up with inflation. :)

    • by nurb432 (527695)

      What about non-profit copyright infringement?

  • by burnitdown (1076427) on Friday August 15, 2008 @02:11PM (#24618751) Homepage Journal

    If you take society at face value, you assume that institutions and rules actually control this place.

    In reality, values and economics and demographics do.

    They can increase penalties all they want, but that's not addressing the economic role of piracy and the new demographic that sees it as normal.

    In my view, record labels, software firms and book publishers all had it easy with record profits on super-popular hits, and so they ignored the rest as "niche topics."

    Now that everyone can publish, the market is flooded with material, reducing its value. Labels and publishers need to compete more aggressively, not spend money lobbying for laws.

    All IMHO.

    • by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Friday August 15, 2008 @02:33PM (#24619151) Homepage

      They can increase penalties all they want, but that's not addressing the economic role of piracy and the new demographic that sees it as normal.

      On the other hand, the fact that for a few decades now a huge percentage of young people in various countries has considered smoking marijuana completely fine has not resulted in the total decriminalization of it. There may very well remain a disconnect between the attitudes of the people and the severity of the law in the "intellectual property" issue as well.

      • by Adambomb (118938)

        Actually that example fits perfectly into the GP's example. All that represents is the difference in values in the current "electable" demographics and the average values of the remainder of the set.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by monxrtr (1105563)

      Exactly. They're losing the war, and are desperate. If you use the laws against those who bought them, especially in this area, enforcement will become prohibitively ever more expensive and impossible. You gotta copy the file to check to see that it's pirated. Nobody illegally copies more files than the copyright investigators of big media. If you applied the same evidence standards used by big media in their lawsuit campaigns against big media, they'll be instantly bankrupted many times over.

      They'll find o

  • by sm62704 (957197) on Friday August 15, 2008 @02:12PM (#24618771) Journal

    UKIPO? Is that pronounced "uki-po"? I'd be embarrassed to work for them, even if the job itself wasn't a disgrace.

    • by lgw (121541)

      The plan would implement another of the recommendations of the Gowers Review of Intellectual Property

      They actually named the study GRIP? Really? That's not even Orwellian, that sounds like something stright from Emperor Palpatine!

      I guess they have stopped pretending that these laws are about anything besides giveing the government more power over citizens. Good thing I have a written Constitution to protect me from such shenanigans, right? Right?

      • by sm62704 (957197)

        That's both interesting and scary. At least the Brits are honest about their Orwellian laws, unlike us Americans who call the traitorous "cowardly government official self preservation act" the PATRIOT act.

        • by lgw (121541)

          Which is a a way ironic, given how many Americans believe that the hated USA-PATRIOT act was written entirely by the "other" party. They could just have called it the WE-BE-EVIL act, and everyone who wrote it still would have been re-elected, given the level of voter awareness.

  • by mrchaotica (681592) * on Friday August 15, 2008 @02:16PM (#24618841)
    Between the UK and Germany (see the article about Germany now refusing to prosecute less sharers of less than 3000 songs, a little bit below this one on the Slashdot front page).
  • by damburger (981828) on Friday August 15, 2008 @02:22PM (#24618971)
    Every time I come on Slashdot it is my country that is guilty of the latest casual trampling of civil rights. Can anyone recommend a country that isn't blithely gamboling towards outright fascism?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Antarctica?

    • by ivan256 (17499) on Friday August 15, 2008 @02:35PM (#24619195)

      I could make you a list, but you be dismayed to find it full of countries that have already achieved outright fascism...

    • by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Friday August 15, 2008 @02:37PM (#24619241)

      no, we cannot find another country. this is NOT about the UK or US. or even the west. its a 'catchy virus' that all countries are not embracing ;(

      take a lesson from brer rabbit (ie, from the BANNED film 'song of the south', by disney). you cannot run away from your troubles.

      seriously, there is no where to run to - as soon as you try, THAT place will increase the anti-freedom crap that you are seeing in the UK (and we also more or less see here in the US).

    • Every time I come on Slashdot it is my country that is guilty of the latest casual trampling of civil rights. Can anyone recommend a country that isn't blithely gamboling towards outright fascism?

      First you have to name a country that is 'blithely gamboling towards outright fascism'. (Hint #1: "trampling of civil rights" != "fascism". Hint #2: you don't have a 'right' to violate someone else's legal rights in the first place.)

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by damburger (981828)

        No individual violation of civil liberties represents, in itself, fascism. They are bricks that together build up the walls of a police state. Complain when you see the bricklayer turn up, not when you are already trapped.

        And you do have a right to fair punishment. Copyright laws are deliberately, maliciously and excessively punitive.

        • Hint #1: "Enforcing someones legal rights (or punishing those who violate them)" != "Police State".

          Hint #2: "Police state" != Fascism".

    • Since when is breaking the law a civil right?

    • What civil right is being trampled here?

    • Can anyone recommend a country that isn't blithely gamboling towards outright fascism?

      China?
      Might be communist, but they don't give a *$%&* about IP law.

  • by RyanFenton (230700) on Friday August 15, 2008 @02:29PM (#24619073)

    <satire style="Stephen Colbert" >
    I mean, the nerve of those commoners - copying data without a whim of care towards the strict control of information. Taking good sales pounds from BMI and other sacred institutions. It's downright madness - thinking they could just download and copy what isn't rightfully theirs, and think they could get away with it.

    I say, no more - they must be punished further - £500,000, no $5,000,000 per... bit of data copied. By god, they shall learn what it means to write data that isn't theirs.

    Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to yell at squirrels for taking nuts from my trees - I do believe they now owe me twelve trillion fully grown oak trees - damn selfish squirrels, they will learn, oh yes, all of them will learn what it means to take my precious acorns - potential trees, all of them, stolen from me!
    </satire>

  • Hmmm... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MightyMartian (840721) on Friday August 15, 2008 @02:31PM (#24619101) Journal

    I'm rather curious to see how much longer laws can be enacted that seem to be in direct contradiction to what is increasingly the norms of society.

    • I'm rather curious to see how much longer laws can be enacted that seem to be in direct contradiction to what is increasingly the norms of society.

      That's just the thing - piracy isn't a norm of society. Protecting rights is the norm of society, and that's what this law is doing.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by cduffy (652)

        That's just the thing - piracy isn't a norm of society. Protecting rights is the norm of society, and that's what this law is doing.

        Piracy is a norm, just as much as breaking the speed limit.

        You may not like it, and it may not be a good thing -- we'd have less pollution and fewer fatal accidents if people didn't speed, after all -- but whether it's desirable or not has nothing to do with whether it's reached the point of being the effective status quo.

        (While I work with Free Software, the games I play and t

        • by monxrtr (1105563)

          If I was a government official or entertainment industry executive, I'd be scared to screw over people so hard without executing them, making sure they were dead so they could never exact revenge. They might as well rename these acts Palestinian Suicide Bomber Importation Acts. LOL. Destroy somebody's life over some copied songs, especially when IP Addresses don't identify individuals, and reap it baby, reap it! We already saw the copycat effect of school shootings in first world countries over school bully

      • by Stevecrox (962208)

        Piracy is the norm within UK society, the BPI likes to state that 6 million people regularly pirate in the UK. There are only ~20 million broadband users in the UK, this suggests a good fraction of people see nothing wrong with piracy and are happy to do it. 1/10th of our populaton admit to regularly pirating and don't see anything wrong with it. Piracy is a society norm, there are less iPhones and iPods in the UK both of which are considered "norms".

        What needs to be addressed is how do we deal with this pr

        • In the U.S. enterprising youths have decided to make a game of destroying the camera. Sort of a status thing.

          It's a temporary fix until the government goes to aerial drones and super tall steel towers.

    • by IPFreely (47576)
      I'm rather curious to see what happens when the penalty for stealing potential money outweighs the penalty for stealing real money.
    • Looking at history, I'm going with "a pretty friggin' long time."

      Disputes over copyright penalty are a lot like disputes over tariffs in structural terms. One industry stands to gain significantly at everybody else' relatively minor expense. Even though the overall social cost weighs against the special interest, they usually recognize and fight for their interests much more strongly than do the diffuse majority.

      Even worse, this situation usually involves an industry that makes something unsexy and emo
  • by DI Rebus (1342829) on Friday August 15, 2008 @02:44PM (#24619353)
    As is common in other areas of industry, the value of your inventory has changed. Please adjust your expectations.
  • by Alzheimers (467217) on Friday August 15, 2008 @02:45PM (#24619369)

    Watch out Seagate, Western Digital, Apple, and any other company that "seeks profit" from the abuse of piracy.

    Terabyte hard drives, CD/DVD burners, Broadband providers and portable music players all owe a good portion of their success to the business of "copyright infringement." They have all, at some point, advertised the fact that they are the tools for anyone who wants to download, store, and play digital media. And none of them really care where that media came from, so long as you fill them up and buy more of their hardware.

    If anyone is making a profit off the business of piracy, it's the hardware manufacturers and the services that allow the infringing material to be transmitted or recorded. When will we see THEM up against the wall?

    • by ccguy (1116865) on Friday August 15, 2008 @03:05PM (#24619653) Homepage

      Terabyte hard drives, CD/DVD burners, Broadband providers and portable music players all owe a good portion of their success to the business of "copyright infringement."

      Indeed. In Spain it is assumed that consumers buy this stuff with piracy in mind and they make everyone pay just in case. Buy a new hard disk, pay 12 euros (plus tax, to add insult to the injury) that will go to the 'authors'.

      Now, I won't claim that I bought my last Tb for my own pictures, home made movies, etc. But the following industries are getting nothing of my 12 euros: Porn, sports (I downloaded the last Wimbledon match for example), software...

      I wonder what is going to happen when they demand a piece of the cake.

      • by xaxa (988988)

        Indeed. In Spain it is assumed that consumers buy this stuff with piracy in mind and they make everyone pay just in case. Buy a new hard disk, pay 12 euros (plus tax, to add insult to the injury) that will go to the 'authors'.

        If you pirate something, and are caught, can you claim that because of the EUR12 you already paid for it?

    • If anyone is making a profit off the business of piracy, it's the hardware manufacturers and the services that allow the infringing material to be transmitted or recorded.

      Let us not forget Sony, who feeds both ends of this equation.

  • I highly recommend skimming through the Gowers Review of Intellectual Property [hm-treasury.gov.uk], the 2006 study on IP that seems to be the basis for this new law.

    It seems to be a truly balanced study, full of interesting insights and recommendations. Some bits I liked:

    • Page 34, Models of Innovation - a nice explanation of 'open' and 'closed' innovation
    • Page 35, Cost of licensing spending - where I learned that in 1999, 90% of companies spent less than 10% of their R&D budget on licensing, but by 2009, that figure had dropped to only 10% of companies spending less than 10% on licensing. Wow.
    • Page 49, IP "performance" scorecard - a frame for judging the cost/benefit of patents, copyrights, trademarks, and designs.
    • Page 56, Revenue Distribution of Songs - where I learned that even the credit card companies make more on downloaded songs than the artist does (!). That's just sad.
    • Page 58, Sales of fiction by year of publication - proof that an extremely small number of works makes any money beyond just a few years after publication

    And I could go on with the remedies suggested by the study, but I'll stop here. If the world were to adopt the recommendations in this Study, I do think it would be a huge step forward.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      where I learned that in 1999, 90% of companies spent less than 10% of their R&D budget on licensing, but by 2009, that figure had dropped to only 10% of companies spending less than 10% on licensing. Wow.

      Wow indeed. I guess the licensing on time travel is pretty damn expensive ;)

    • by jimicus (737525)

      In common with most reports commissioned by the UK government, they'll take the bits of the Gower Report that they like and implement them while ignoring everything else. Even if the bits that they implement are clearly headlined with "THERE IS NO FREAKING POINT IN EVEN LOOKING AT THIS UNLESS YOU'RE PREPARED TO IMPLEMENT THIS OTHER THING THAT YOU MIGHT FIND SLIGHTLY UNPALATABLE".

  • Just make it the death penalty for copying a SINGLE song. That will teach them darn pirates....

    Of course that will also cause a revolt and we will all finally overthrow these insane governments.

  • soon the status quo will be reached as the Pound will eventually be worth 1/10 of the USD or Euro.

  • I notice...

    ...that when 2 different penalties are out of agreement with each other, it's never suggested that the harsher one be brought down to the level of the milder one.

    ...that the British government seems not at all interested in serving the interests of the British people at all.
  • Option 1: You pirate a song that you never would have bought anyway from another music lover - the artist gets no money.

    Option 2: You buy the song from the record company - the artist gets less than the credit card company processing the transaction gets.

    Tell me again how this as all about the starving artists (and their families for decades after the artist is dead).

    Now tell me just who has been starving the artists in the first place?
  • countries for immigration. why ? with such stupid draconian, boot licking laws as these, graduates in other countries will not be choosing britain either for grad study, or immigration and working.

    there britain goes down the drain in terms of brain power. right at the time the entire population average was becoming too old to support the country too.

    you gotta love politicians. for a few dollars, they can sink their own country.
  • Just when I thought the human race couldn't get any dumber, something like this always proves me wrong. I mean seriously, do you really expect me to believe that a 10 fold increase in punishment will deter this kind of "crime"? Give me a fucking break!

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