UK Plans to Criminalise Internet Piracy

The Independent reported on Sunday about plans by the UK government to criminalise illegal file downloaders which, according to the article, could lead to around seven million people ending up with a criminal record.

The plans are to be announced in the Queen’s autumn speech and would give Ofcom (the comunications indistry regulator) powers to require ISPs to collect information on users who are downloading illegal material. Although the data would be anonymous, repeat offenders could be identified by their’s computer’s “ID number” (presumably that’s acually IP or MAC number). Offenders could have their broadband speed restricted, be cut off altogether, or receive a fine of up to £50,000.

Opponents of the laws say that the better option would be to go after the people who upload copyrighted content rather than those who download it, while the newly formed Pirate Party UK have announced that they will stand at the next General Election witht he stated aims of reforming copyright law, ending excessive surveillance, and promoting freedom of speech.

One thing confuses me, though – unauthorised duplication of copyrighted material is already illegal, isn’t it? So while these new laws would introduce new penalties and new powers for Ofcom I’m not quite sure what’s meant by the fact that internet piracy would be “criminalised”. Is it that piracy is dealt with by civil courts at the moment but would be dealt with by criminal courts in future? Perhaps someone with a bit of legal knowledge can let us know in the comments.

What do you think of this? Is it a good step towards stamping out piracy? Is it overly harsh or deserved? Will it even work? Personally I don’t think it’ll make much difference – people who want to download will keep doing it regardless. But what about you? Let us know your thoughts!

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  1. As I’ve said in my blog, the industry needs to change it’s business model, not change the law. There are clear reasons why people download illegally, because it is free, easy, and relatively untraceable (if you know what you are doing, no matter what the government says). Read my blog at to hear my full views, leave comments!

    • Thanks Chris – working on a follow-up to this story right now :) Should be up shortly.

      Thanks for contributing.

  2. John Carbery says:

    It is a great pity that the people in charge do not do some real work for a change . No wonder the MP’s can take such a long summer break as there is nothing for them to do at Westminster . Brussels determines about 50% of the rules that are shoved on us , many of those beurocrats unelected . Sounds a bit like our quangoes , overpaid and unnecessary .
    My last comment is that Eire will vote yes to the Lisbon treaty and then things can only get worse . If there is somebodys God up there , please do not put Anthony Blair or Neil Kinnock in as President of the EU .

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