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UK MPs Demand Prison Sentences for Repeat Internet Pirates

Friday, January 24th, 2014 (10:35 am) - Score 1,510

A debate on the United Kingdom’s Intellectual Property Bill has caused controversy after several MPs and the Prime Minister’s own Intellectual Property Advisor, Mike Weatherley (Conservative MP for Hove and Portslade), backed calls for persistent pirates to lose their “Internet rights” and suffer “some sort of custodial sentence“.

It’s not the first time that Weatherley, whom has a somewhat less than impartial history (here), has called for tougher measures to tackle Internet copyright infringement. Only last month he threatened fresh legislation against broadband ISPs that “knowingly facilitate illegal downloading practices” and which do not take steps to stop it.

Now for the first time we’re getting an idea of just how far he’s willing to go, which could include locking up children that might never have been able to afford what they’ve downloaded in the first place and removing Internet access rights (disconnection) from all those whom share the same broadband connection. Of course not everybody agreed with Weatherley’s position.

Helen Goodman, British Labour MP, said:

It is important that we distinguish between 14-year-olds in their bedrooms downloading two or three Justin Bieber tracks onto an iPod and people who make multi-billion pound businesses out of providing illegal material. It is not right to treat the two groups in the same way.”

But Weatherley wasn’t having any of this common sense lark and, as reported on TorrentFreak, promptly replied, “If we exhaust fines and other means of stopping persons downloading illegally, we must consider some sort of custodial sentence for persistent offenders” (isn’t it technically unlawful rather than illegal when money isn’t involved?). A proposal for a maximum sentence of 10 years was mooted, albeit mostly but not explicitly for commercial crimes.

Ironically similar arguments were recorded just before the last General Election in May 2010, which resulted in the heavily criticised Digital Economy Act (DEAct) being rushed through during the wash-up process; much to the dismay of more than a few opponents. Hopefully we won’t see a repeat of that situation before next year’s election.

So far the DEAct’s system of ISP based Warning Letters has yet to be introduced and the first notifications aren’t due to be sent until late 2015 or possibly even 2016 (here). In the meantime Rights Holders have had to settle for website blocking, which is easily circumvented and often only serves to promote the top sources of piracy.

Weatherley also called for a number of measures, which have also been proposed before, that make more sense than locking up teenagers. For example, he wants to stop advertising payments to websites that clearly facilitate Internet piracy (sensible). But he also wants to make Google and other Internet search engines accountable for linking to criminal piracy sites, which is more difficult to tackle.

Needless to say that giving people a criminal record for non-commercial piracy might not be the best approach, especially given the difficulty of actually being able to identify the guilty party. On a shared connection it’s only the bill payer whom takes the heat and that could be an entire hotel chain, father in a family home or school network etc.

The bill initially wasn’t going to tread where the DEAct has gone before but it’s starting to look as if the old battle lines from 2008-2010 are resurfacing. Albert Einstein once said, insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
Leave a Comment
17 Responses
  1. dragoneast says:

    The law’s a funny thing. Seems it’s more or less OK to beat up anyone physically or nick physical goods, and get a slap on the wrist after a proforma social report. But things you can’t see, like the digital world, are heinous – all medieval devils and goblins. The devil is coming to get you . . . so you better pay your indulgences.

  2. bob says:

    Meanwhile in 1984…

  3. Dan Dodex says:

    “copyright theft” means claiming that you own the copyright to a work. We are only talking here about “copyright infringement”.

    I don’t expect much from politicians but I expected more from ISPreview 🙂

  4. darren says:

    What a lot of rubbish prison sentences for illegal downloading MPs need to get in the real world its getting out of hand all of this the figures from last year from bpi show how well the UK music industry is doing that act will fail

  5. RLP says:

    Simple question:

    Just how many times do the film makers and music companies expect the public to pay to watch or listen to their content?

    1. Live performances
    2. Cinema
    3. PPV TV
    4. VCR, DVD and Blu-Ray or Tape, Single, LP, CD
    5. Download via LoveFilm, Netflix, iTunes, etc.
    6. Subscription TV
    7. TV License

    Sure some of those do merit paying for each occurrence, but just how often should you pay for the same repeated item?

    When is it intellectual property rights or ripping people off?

  6. Sledgehammer says:

    One MP letting off a load of hot air. Of which very little will happen. Why these Mp’s fall over backwards to please nameless people making these claims and wasting precious government time, when there are more important things to be taken care of, leaves me wondering when was the last piece of useful legislation passed.

    1. NilSatisOptimum says:

      Very likely he has been lobbied and has agreed to all the trappings that lobbyist had to offer!

    2. timeless says:

      hes obviously been lobbied, just like Mandleson was (one of the original creators of the bill.. well Act), if memory serves he he spent a week in Corfu with one of the media execs who proposed the it and conceived allot of the rules. regardless most of these politicians who are trying to legislate have no clue about the technology and only end up wasting more money legislating rather than taking the time to get a proper picture.

  7. zemadeiran says:

    Why don’t MP’s just stfu? That would give them more time to look after their blue rinse constituents and deal with local issue’s…

    Now THAT would be a law I would want voted in if applied to said MP’s.

  8. Richard says:

    What happened following the enquiry into MPs expenses?

    They need to concentrate on the role they were voted into place for.

    1. timeless says:

      the passed the buck, its what politicians do best, they divert attention away from one issue to another.

  9. rolly says:

    stupid old twat

  10. dragoneast says:

    I think being an idiot is an essential occupational qualification for a politician. Think about it: if you were a party loyalist, why would you select anybody with a mind of their own?

  11. cyclope says:

    Well come election time these self serving knob-rots won’t be making any more changes because they will be thrown out of office,
    There is one of their tribe (Peter Bone MP )that thinks that the august bank holiday should be renamed to “Margret thatcher day” and is trying to sneak a private members bill through parliament, ffs are these idiots on planet earth?
    I think they must really want mass riots
    Oh and here is a linky to the epetition to stop the thatcher day nonsense http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/52411

    1. timeless says:

      l hope so, tho at the moment it looks like they have allot of support on immigration, benefit policies and likely more support on the economy since they published skewed employment and economic figures.

      what makes me laugh the most is this blame labour mantra they read from, they say borrowing was out of control.. well if you want to throw blame at borrowing, the Tories have borrowed more in three years than labour ever did in 13 years.. doesnt that say something?

  12. dragoneast says:

    I think as politics becomes irrelevant to more people; that’s certainly what I find that I can look after myself better than the state ever can, politicians jump from one empty gesture to the next for a cheap bit of publicity and in search of that elusive “feelgood” factor to give them the next shot in some opinion poll or another. I don’t think changing the politicians will change anything in this chimpanzees’ tea party. You just have to take it as entertainment, if you can.

  13. DanielM says:

    Just another stupid corrupt MP, what do you expect.

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