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United Kingdom Crime Piracy Your Rights Online

Cameron's IP Advisor: Throw Persistent Copyright Infringers In Jail 263

Posted by timothy
from the gradient-of-values dept.
An anonymous reader writes with this excerpt from TorrentFreak: "During a debate on the UK's Intellectual Property Bill, the Prime Minister's Intellectual Property Adviser has again called for a tougher approach to online file-sharing. In addition to recommending 'withdrawing Internet rights from lawbreakers,' Mike Weatherley MP significantly raised the bar by stating that the government must now consider 'some sort of custodial sentence for persistent offenders.' Google also got a bashing – again." The article goes on to say "Weatherley noted that the Bill does not currently match penalties for online infringement with those available to punish infringers in the physical world. The point was detailed by John Leech MP, who called for the maximum penalty for digital infringement to be increased to 10 years’ imprisonment instead of the current two years."
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Cameron's IP Advisor: Throw Persistent Copyright Infringers In Jail

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  • Ob frosty (Score:5, Funny)

    by Hognoxious (631665) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @10:32AM (#46046249) Homepage Journal

    John Leech? I take he doesn't seed back, then?

    • He's my MP, but I'm afraid I can't report on his file-sharing habits.

      And to lend some context to his words, from TFA:

      “The discrepancy I mentioned is a source of great frustration. For example, the private prosecution by the Federation Against Copyright Theft of Anton Vickerman, who was making £50,000 a month from running a website [SurfTheChannel] that facilitated mass-scale copyright infringement, saw him convicted of conspiracy to defraud and sentenced to four years in prison,” Leech exp

      • Re:Ob frosty (Score:5, Informative)

        by NotSanguine (1917456) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @11:23AM (#46046823) Journal

        He's my MP, but I'm afraid I can't report on his file-sharing habits.

        And to lend some context to his words, from TFA:

        “The discrepancy I mentioned is a source of great frustration. For example, the private prosecution by the Federation Against Copyright Theft of Anton Vickerman, who was making £50,000 a month from running a website [SurfTheChannel] that facilitated mass-scale copyright infringement, saw him convicted of conspiracy to defraud and sentenced to four years in prison,” Leech explained.

        “This level of sentence would not have been possible if he had been prosecuted under copyright law, but FACT was able to prove conspiracy in his actions. Without proof of conspiracy, a serious criminal could have been left subject to a disproportionately low maximum penalty.”

        In a way, I do agree with his point; those making that sort of money from infringement do need to be punished properly. However, it'll be all too easy to abuse this sort of measure, and end up with the disproportion going the other way.

        The crime here was fraud. The guy sold something he did not have the rights to sell. Kind of like someone selling your house without your knowledge. IANAL, but as I understand it, we have laws (as was seen in this case) that address these issues. Sending someone to prison for ten years (or at all) for downloading the latest episode of some crap TV show or movie for their personal use is ridiculous. That is and should be a civil matter, IMHO.

        • Sending someone to prison for ten years (or at all) for downloading the latest episode of some crap TV show or movie for their personal use is ridiculous.

          It is, and I believe I hinted at this possibility with the following:

          However, it'll be all too easy to abuse this sort of measure, and end up with the disproportion going the other way.

        • by noh8rz10 (2716597)

          The crime here was fraud. The guy sold something he did not have the rights to sell. Kind of like someone selling your house without your knowledge.

          dude, that's a sweet idea. hey, want to buy a house? or a car? no problem whatever you want. cash only. or bitcoin.

        • Re:Ob frosty (Score:5, Interesting)

          by DocGerbil100 (2873411) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @02:49PM (#46049225)
          Just to clarify, the crime Vickerman was prosecuted for is Conspiracy to Defraud, purely for running SurfTheChannel, a streaming links site.

          This is quite a different law from Fraud, it's vaguer and much more prone to abuse - it seems to be FACT's go-to law whenever they realise a suspect they've spent time and money investigating isn't breaking any actual laws.

          Without it, Vickerman would probably never have been prosecuted for anything, although civil action would have been likely, IMO.

          If some defendant somewhere ever gets an appeal up to the ECJ, I think it quite possible they'll shoot the law down in flames, just for being so badly written.

          More information:
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conspiracy_to_defraud [wikipedia.org]
          http://torrentfreak.com/surfthechannel-owner-sentenced-to-four-years-in-jail-120814/ [torrentfreak.com]
        • by tomtomtom (580791)

          Interestingly, digging a bit deeper and looking at the average sentences (in 2009, the most recent year available) for those given immediate custodial sentences (which is not all of those convicted), the statistics say 33.6 months was the average for robbery and 48.7 months for sexual offences (which are statistically the longest sentences on average). Of course the lengthiest of sentences for those offences will have been much longer but as a taxpayer the cost of jailing this guy Vickerman for 5 years for

      • by WillAdams (45638) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @11:32AM (#46046917) Homepage

        Is it possible to make lots of money from copyright infringement w/o breaking lots of other laws?

        If that's not the case, why do we need more?

        • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 23, 2014 @11:40AM (#46047037)
          I for one wasn't going to pirate anything today. But I am making it a point to hit The Pirate Bay and download whatever catches my eye. Fuck John Leech.
        • Is it possible to make lots of money from copyright infringement w/o breaking lots of other laws?

          Probably not, but the difficulty is in proving guilt.

          Disclaimer: I neither agree nor disagree with John Leech's statements, I'm just quoting for context and offering a little analysis.

        • by Sarten-X (1102295)

          Yes. Build a YouTube-like site that doesn't have any TOS language giving you a license.to redistribute, and charge for advertising. By redistributing the content that you don't have a license for, you're infringing content, even if the rest of your business is legitimate.

      • by Goaway (82658)

        In a way, I do agree with his point; those making that sort of money from infringement do need to be punished properly.

        You're behind on the trends. These days, making big money off the work of others makes you a hero. Just look at Kim Dotcom!

  • rights (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ragzouken (943900) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @10:33AM (#46046267)

    "withdrawing [...] rights from lawbreakers" I don't think that's how rights work?

    • Re:rights (Score:4, Interesting)

      by i kan reed (749298) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @10:47AM (#46046413) Homepage Journal

      Yeah, it sort of is. Rights, as we know them, are derived from the social contract, and withdrawal of one or more of those rights(such as freedom of movement) is necessary to preserve the benefits of the social contract to everyone else. It shouldn't be done unnecessarily(like this) or to unreasonable extremes(like removal of right not to be tortured), but protection of rights is done with the understanding that you won't use your rights to infringe the rights of others.

      *You can make the argument that rights are natural or divine in origin, but that's an unprovable derail I'd prefer not to go down.

      • Re:rights (Score:4, Informative)

        by shentino (1139071) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @11:20AM (#46046773)

        If you can withdraw it, it's a privilege.

        • Right, so what are prisons then? Proof that every single thing we call a right is secretly a privilege? I'm sorry they're not true Scotsmen.

          • Re:rights (Score:5, Insightful)

            by VortexCortex (1117377) <VortexCortex@Nos ... t-retrograde.com> on Thursday January 23, 2014 @05:35PM (#46051313)

            Now, consider that the citizens can withdraw the government's right to imprison them.

            Once you've done that enough times you'll soon see that freedom does exist in the absence of punishment or laws or 'rights', but laws do not exist without punishment -- application of force against another's will.

            In the natural lawless state we have the freedom to do whatever our moral compass allows. Not all laws are immoral, but history is full of examples. It's better to err on the side of caution and have as few laws as possible, and thus the most freedom.

            In the age of information Copyright is artificial scarcity of infinitely reproducible information -- It's propping up a business model akin to selling ice to Eskimos. There is no evidence that Copyrights are beneficial for society. It's terribly dangerous to run the world on untested hypotheses. We should do the experiment and see if the laws that grant 'rights holders' monopoly of information should exist. There is only evidence to support the null hypothesis: That copyrights and patents are not required for innovation or social benefit. The fashion and automotive industries sell primarily on design, are very profitable, and have no copyrights or design patents.

            Information is not scarce. Market that which is scarce: The ability to create new information. Sell the labour to create new information instead, and you'll get more art. If you get paid once for your work to build a home, fix a car, make a song, etc. then you have to do more work to make more money.

      • by rolfwind (528248)

        There are no rights. Contracts need to be consented to, otherwise there is no contract, just terms dicated to the individual whether he agrees or not.

        There is just a list of revokable privileges and it gets shorter every year.

    • No, that's how it works. It's generally accepted that withholding rights from some is required to ensure public safety or other collective benefit. That's why prisons exist. It just has to be done with suitable safeguards (Right to legal advice, right to a fair trial, right to see the evidence against them, etc) to make sure that no person is falsely convicted. Doesn't always work out so well in practice, but no society has found a better solution yet.

    • by Kjella (173770)

      I'm fairly sure prisons withdraw quite a few rights, parole somewhat less but unless it's "cruel and unusual punishment" - sorry, wrong country - the court can do pretty much as they want. I do believe hackers and others convicted of other serious offenses can already be banned from using computers.

      • Re:rights (Score:4, Interesting)

        by shentino (1139071) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @11:20AM (#46046781)

        You don't have an unconditional right to freedom. What you do have is the right to due process before it is taken away.

    • by beelsebob (529313)

      Right, just like you have the right to freedom, and the government can never take that away, even if you break the law... wait...

  • The only solution (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kardos (1348077) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @10:34AM (#46046279)

    is not to play the game. The rise of creative commons and the like will end this oppressive copyright regime. Free software and free culture is the only way to go.

    • by Andy_R (114137) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @10:55AM (#46046493) Homepage Journal

      ...is legalisation. Non commercial sharing of information isn't wrong, or bad for the economy, so the best solution is to legalise it.

    • Re:The only solution (Score:5, Interesting)

      by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @10:58AM (#46046533)

      No, it won't, for a number of reasons:
      - The power of marketing. Commercial interests can throw enough money at promoting anything to make it popular, at least for a time. Who wants to go see Obscure Indie Horror Flick that they read about on facebook when there is massive television advert promotion for Buckets of CGI Blood VII - and it's being featured on talk shows, endorsed by celebrities, and appears on billboards?

      - Incidential infringement. It happens, a lot. The greatest source of clipart today is google image search. People frequently grab popular songs to remix or dub over their own videos for youtube. Typically this is done by people who just don't care about copyright and know next to nothing about it.

      - Closing the wagons. If creative commons every seriously becomes a threat to entrenched interests, do you expect them to just take it lying down? No, they'll use every dirty trick in the book! You'll probably find informal agreements abound to exclude the upstarts, making it very difficult for them to be promoted outside of social networking. Radio stations will likewise refuse to play creative commons music, for fear of being blacklisted by the major labels they depend upon a lot more heavily. Same goes in software - look at the measures Microsoft has taken over the last twenty years to fight linux with deliberate incompatibilities and aggressive business tactics, and continues to take with such measures as Secure Boot. They've not been entirely victorious, but they've certainly made linux advocates and developers fight hard for every scrap of ground they have gained.

      CC may well bring on a real revolution in popular culture, but it's certainly not inevitable.

      • by cdrudge (68377)

        - Incidential infringement. It happens, a lot. The greatest source of clipart today is google image search. People frequently grab popular songs to remix or dub over their own videos for youtube. Typically this is done by people who just don't care about copyright and know next to nothing about it.

        I don't think that it's that they don't care about it, it's just that they don't view it as copyright infringement. They think of it more as fair use. It's not, but in their eyes and minds since they aren't "comme

        • by BronsCon (927697)
          Honestly, that's how it should be. And if YouTube puts ads on their video, they're the ones commercializing it, let them work out the licensing and pay royalties on it.
    • Nonsense, there's always more than one way to skin a cat. For instance: skinning public officials who consistently value the rights of people who give them money over the rights of the public. Torrent the last season of game of thrones for instructions on that method.
  • Weatherley underlined that he did indeed mean prison should be an option not only for those running sites, but those who keep on downloading despite the warnings.

    Is this guy a martyr or do we just chalk this up as another politician with crazy ideas that won't pass the majority test? Perhaps his boss doesn't give him enough work to do.

    • by gstoddart (321705) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @10:44AM (#46046371) Homepage

      Is this guy a martyr or do we just chalk this up as another politician with crazy ideas that won't pass the majority test?

      You seem awfully confident it couldn't get passed into law.

      I'm less certain of that. The copyright owners and their lobbyists are working to chip away at our rights to make them secondary to theirs -- because they essentially want all digital technology to be controlled and used as they allow us.

      I fear this could be something which happens eventually. And I fear that they will be pushing this exact same agenda elsewhere.

      Case in point, the FBI gets called in because someone was wearing Google Glasses in a movie theater, even though he wasn't recording. And ICE and DHS do domain takedowns of places suspected of violating copyright (or facilitating it).

      Governments are increasingly becoming tools of corporations to enforce their wishes on us.

      So what you and I is becoming irrelevant, it's what the big corporations can pay for. And they have far more money than we do.

      • by rts008 (812749)

        Well, actually it was Dept. of
        Homeland Security that was called in, the 'suspected copyright infringer' was under the mistaken impression they were FBI agents at first.

        But that really doesn't detract from your insightful comment, I just like things to remain factual/accurate when possible. :-)

        • by gstoddart (321705)

          Really? As it was reported (fairly widely) it was FBI.

          Still, the irony of DHS doing this makes the agency as draconian as the name initially suggested it would eventually be.

          I'll try not to trigger Godwin's law, but ...

          • by rts008 (812749)

            Yeah.
            I actually RTFA when this came out on /., and in the interview with the man arrested, he stated that he thought they were FBI, but it turned out to be the DHS.

            Also, when I went back to the the /. article there is now an update:

            Update: 01/21 21:41 GMT by U L : The Columbus Dispatch confirmed the story with the Department of Homeland Security. The ICE and not the FBI detained the Glass wearer, and there happened to be an MPAA task force at the theater that night, who then escalated the incident.

            It was another typical bad/inaccurate summary by the submitter, and again, typically, not caught by the /. editors.

            Yeah, I thought of the Stasi(Ministry for State Security of East Germany.) when they announced the formation of the DHS, and announced it's intended mission.

            And if w

  • Because our prisons are already nearly full...

    https://www.gov.uk/government/... [www.gov.uk]

    • by gstoddart (321705)

      Because our prisons are already nearly full...

      Then you're doing it wrong.

      Prisons are supposed to be a massive, for-profit industry to allow corporations the maximum opportunity to leverage synergies and enhance shareholder value, and your justice system is meant to feed as many people as possible into it.

      Sheesh, don't you guys know anything?

      *sigh* If only that wasn't apparently true.

    • by 0123456 (636235)

      No problem. They'll just let murderers and rapists out early to make room for the real criminals.

  • Wrong approach (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Peter Simpson (112887) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @10:38AM (#46046313)
    The only way to fight personal, noncommercial "sharing", is to provide a one-stop download center with reasonable prices. It has worked for Amazon and Apple, but the media companies stubbornly refuse to cooperate and make their complete catalogs available in one place...so Pirate Bay does it for them.

    The market is speaking as loudly as it can, but the media companies refuse to listen.
    • Re:Wrong approach (Score:5, Insightful)

      by serviscope_minor (664417) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @11:07AM (#46046625) Journal

      And add to that no DRM.

      Yeah they love the DRM for some reason I can't quite work out. But basically it makes the product crap. It's either "streaming" in which case you need a decent, wired internet connection (how's your 3G data usage doing...?) or it's locked to some device in some way which means playing it on a decent screen or another portable device will suck.

      The problem is not competing with "free" it's competing with "better".

      Of course, most people don't really know about DRM. But that doesn't matter because they are at least vaguely aware of the effects. The pirate bay is better because:
      * Excellent search engine.
      * Nice one stop place for all media.
      * Excellent choice in download clients (can prioitise, batch up, etc)
      * You can use your favourite media player.
      * You can play on any devices you own.
      * You can copy from your laptop to your phone, tablet, other laptop, builtin player in TV
      * You can transcode to a smaller file for your phone
      * You can shove it on a USB stick and go to a friend's house for movie night
      * You can play on any screen you own.
      * Generally good download speeds, excellent for popular stuff.
      * Generally a good choice of different size/quality
      * Available in your country right now.

      The fact that's is free is at worst icing and best actually a minor disincentive since a good number of people don't like the idea of being a freeloader.

    • by Twinbee (767046)
      With ever increasing HD sizes, and smaller real estate in meatspace, I'd love to buy a film to download, instead of purchasing the DVD.
  • by Joe_Dragon (2206452) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @10:39AM (#46046323)

    Just look all of minor pot / marijuana offenders in jails / prisons.

    also what the cost to keep people locked up as well

    • by pete6677 (681676)

      Although I'm all in favor of marijuana decriminalization, I also don't believe that prisons are full of people who have done nothing more than get arrested with a little bit of weed. Groups like NORML tend to exaggerate this a lot. They claim someone is locked up "just for pot" when in fact they had enough to be considered a dealer along with an illegal firearm. Quite a bit of difference.

  • by melikamp (631205) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @10:40AM (#46046333) Homepage Journal

    UDHR article 19:

    Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

    Since enforcing copyright against people who share information online non-commercially is clearly a violation of a human right according to UDHR, to which UK is a signatory, how about throwing copyright enforcers in jail instead? How long is the public going to put up with this oppression?

  • by sandbagger (654585) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @10:40AM (#46046337)

    Given how often his colleagues have been found to be using other peoples' speeches, this could thin out the Tory caucus.

    • Of course not. This only applies to people that don't have political power. Non-politicians and non-corporate class.

  • plea bargain (Score:4, Insightful)

    by k6mfw (1182893) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @10:43AM (#46046363)
    I can see it now, someone arrested for copyright infringement accepts a plea bargain for a violent crime conviction to get less jail time.
  • by MickyTheIdiot (1032226) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @10:45AM (#46046383) Homepage Journal

    We have it in the U.S. too. People with extreme pro-corporate positions making it to office...

    In the U.S. we've got people under surveillance because they have spoken up against Fraking. That's what happens in a corporate state.

  • Sounds good (Score:5, Interesting)

    by EMG at MU (1194965) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @10:48AM (#46046433)
    Great, it should apply to everyone. Government officials, corporate execs, and the music industry itself.

    The problem (besides jail time being a disproportionate punishment for copyright infringement) is that when someone in the government is found to have stolen an image or text from the internet, nothing happens. When a politician illegally uses a song for a campaign rally and the band finds out, all the politician has to do is release some press statement saying an aide made a mistake. When corporations infringe on copyrights nothing happens. When the music industry is found to have infringed on copyrights nothing happens. The only people subject to punishment are the commoner.

    If laws applied to us all equally then lawmakers would stop passing asinine laws.
    • Give it another three or four years. The law or something like it will pass, a bunch of teenagers will get thrown in jail, a politician will violate the law in his campaign advertising and nothing will happen to anyone. That's the time to break out the pitchforks and torches.

      But of course that won't happen. The long slow slide into the kind of repressive regime normally found only in fiction will continue effectively unopposed. The majority of the population will honestly agree that "they should be puni

  • FUCK YOU.
  • In online is sharing, you still have what someone that wouldnt pay for it got, in real world is stealing, you don't have anymore something. Digital "crimes" are qualitatively different from real world ones.

    And over that US/UK governments are in an approved campaing of "sharing" the private IP of everyone in the civilized world, plus digitally sabotaging foreing companies/governments. That is the blue whale on the room (elephants are too tiny for that kind of analogies) that should be solved before question

  • by RichMan (8097) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @10:52AM (#46046463)

    It seems to me when politicians or corporations misuse a photo or song they get off with a "opps". Yet they want to throw people in jail.
    Step #1 should be much steeper penalties to corporations and other functioning entities that should have proper procedures in place to avoid violations.

    • by cdrudge (68377)

      So we want corporations to not be people for the sake of political contributions and such. But then we want corporations to be people when they infringe on copyrights? Corporations don't infringe on copyrights. The people that work and run the corporations infringe on the copyright.

      How about we not assign any type of personhood to corporations and rather blame the people that should be blamed, the people responsible for making the decision and/or approving the decision.

  • by MondoGordo (2277808) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @10:56AM (#46046505)
    it's a cautionary tale of our future. Peeps in the UK (and elsewhere!!) really need to wake up and stop this shit before it passes.
  • by erroneus (253617) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @11:15AM (#46046699) Homepage

    So when technology and the interests of the people and technology all change around them and their business model, the best answer they can come up with is punishment? This is the interests of a few dominating the interests and even the needs of the masses. Perhaps not the best definition of tyranny but it rather fits.

  • Throw persistently lying politicians in jail. It will have a better effect on society.

  • The People need a way to hold politicians accountable. Elections no longer work.

  • "Weatherley noted that the Bill does not currently match penalties for online infringement with...."

    Are you talking about someone named William here? Or is there so much reverence to the idea of jailing someone who fights back against copyright abuse that this law is taking on god-like significance? Is there any reason at all that this reads "the Bill" rather than simply "the bill"?

  • by Nukenbar (215420) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @12:23PM (#46047545)

    I think most people by now understand the difference. The real question is do we want (what I will call) common copyright infringement, which is already against the law as a civil matter to be criminal fineable or jailable offense.

    But now, do we want common copyright infringement infringement to be a crime?

    I think most hear can agree that using someone's copyright against their will is wrong. But is it a moral wrong, a civil wrong, or a criminal wrong? Clearly those who own the copyrights don't want others using their copyrights without their authorization/compensation. But is this a battle that we want the government involved in, criminally? Some copyright infringement already is criminal. Remember all of those FBI warnings at the beginning of DVDs? If you start selling copyrighted materials as your own, you could be going to jail. And I think we call all agree that this is a crime. Clearly in large scale infringement cases, for example Microsoft using some Apple copyright, a civil proceeding is warranted and suitable.

    But what do we do with individual offenders? The Pirate bay types. What type of crime is is? A moral one like adultery? (used to be a crime, but is not anymore **exceptions noted**) or should it rise to a punishable offense? What is the line between the two?

    These are the questions we should be asking ourselves and as a society and not allowing special interest groups to drive the discussion.

  • Since I'm assuming the average UK citizen is relatively similar to those of us in the rest of the world when it comes to things like copyright infringement, it would probably be easier to select a few square miles in some unpopulated area, fence it in and just declare everything outside of your fence as "jail."

    The problem with harsh penalties to online copyright infringement is that there's just so damned much of it! I'd be surprised if the percentage of people in the developed world under about 25 who hav

  • by jones_supa (887896) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @12:30PM (#46047627)
    While I am myself an anti-piracy guy, I still oppose these ridiculous sentences of 10 years for something like piracy. John Leech should do an experiment where he himself goes to jail for just 1 year to discover how long time even that is.

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