First catch your copyright criminal ...

Last week the UK Intellectual Property Office posted news of a fresh consultation exercise, this time in respect of penalties for copyright infringement. As the UK-IPO's website observes:

"Currently the maximum fine that Magistrates' Courts [IPKat note: these are the entry-level criminal courts in England and Wales, largely staffed by amateurs] can award for online copyright infringement is £5,000. To reflect the commercial damage that large scale copyright infringement causes, the UK-IPO is consulting on increasing the level of fine handed down by a Magistrates’ Court to a maximum of £50,000.

This consultation takes forward Gowers Review recommendation 36, which recommended matching penalties for online and physical copyright infringement by increasing sanctions for online infringements.

Further to this in February this year "Creative Britain: New Talents for the New Economy" was published by the Departments for Culture, Media and Sports (DCMS), Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR), and Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS). It included a commitment to consult on increasing the fines available in the Magistrates’ Court from the current £5,000 limit to a maximum of £50,000 for online copyright infringement.

Scotland does not have Magistrates’ Courts; therefore the consultation considers introducing maximum levels of fines for Scottish summary courts that deal with equivalent cases in Scotland".

The interesting bit of this paper, the IPKat says, is the bit that deals with the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (POCA) and the mechanisms for depriving criminals of their ill-gotten gains. In the light of POCA's current provisions, does the law need any real changes at all? Sadly, says Merpel, POCA is only as good as you can make it: but you can't deprive criminals of their illegal profits until you convict them, and you can't convict them till you've got the evidence against them, and you can't pin the evidence on them till you can find them in the first place -- and the criminal copyright sector appears to be far bigger and better motivated than the bit of the criminal enforcement sector that can be allocated to deal with this issue.

PDF version of the consultation document (28 pages) here (you can also get it in Word from the link at the top of the page, if you want to cut-and-paste it ...)
The closing date for making your comments is 31 October 2008.
First catch your copyright criminal ... First catch your copyright criminal ... Reviewed by Jeremy on Monday, August 18, 2008 Rating: 5

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