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The United Kingdom has continued a crackdown on people who download content illegally, but it may have effects on how you use your personal files. After recommendations by the UK Intellectual Property Office, government officials may move forward and decide to increase the maximum sentence for online piracy from two years to ten years. Officials say that the original two year maximum is not enough to deter pirates. These sentences are primarily for commercial level offenses, typically those who download or offer copyrighted content for their own personal gain, such as selling software off the market. This could include the operators of torrent sites where programs are downloaded, such as The Pirate Bay. Individual users most likely would not be brought in for such a long prison sentence, however the impact on websites is expected to also deter users who download illegal content.

This is not the only anti-piracy measure the UK government has announced this week. The High Court also announced that they would be overturning exceptions issued that had allowed users to store copyrighted content from CDs and devices on their computer. The exception to copyright law argued that those who rip CDs do it strictly for personal use, normally out of convenience to store their music, movies, and other content on portable devices or back them up in case they could not access them. The High Court however decided this factor didn’t matter, and overturned the exception. Creative industries have lauded the decision, with UK Music, a lobbying group for the music industry, saying “It is vitally important that fairness for songwriters, composers and performers is written into the law.  My members’ music defines this country”.

Many have already noted that this law is near completely unenforceable, since it is impossible to tell who stores music for strictly personal use. It is one of many very strict anti-piracy laws in the UK, who launched a massive campaign against illegal downloading last year, when it began sending warnings to those who download content on a regular basis. UK downloaders were also targeted by several video game companies, including Atari and Techland, to set an example of thousands of pirates, who received fines from £300. The source of many of these laws, along with the Intellectual Property Office and lobbying groups from creative industries, is the British Phonographic Industry, who has advocated for intellectual property rights since 2010. This has included sending complaints to Google over torrent sites and download links being accessible by their search engine. The BPI, unlike some advocacy groups, tends to target those who upload copyrighted material for sharing over individual downloaders though.

Whether any of these new policies will deter serial pirates is yet to be seen. The Pirate Bay, the most well-known source of illegal downloads, has been banned in the UK (along with many other countries) and shut down dozens of times over the course of its history. Despite this, the site continues to reappear shortly after it’s taken down every time, and determined users can find ways around the ISP block to access Pirate Bay’s content. If history is any indicator, increased punishments likely will not do much to stop piracy in the UK.

Update: The original article erroneously claimed the 10 year anti-piracy sentence was already in effect. It is in fact in consultation, but has not yet been enacted. Apologies for the confusion.

Kindra Pring

Staff Writer

Teacher's aid by day. Gamer by night. And by day, because I play my DS on my lunch break. Ask me about how bad my aim is.

  • Audie Bakerson

    Let’s just call it Airstrip One already.

  • Kev Lew

    so much for the government and entertainment industry admitting that for the most part piracy is a service issue (apple just launched a new streaming music service, still loads of artists I like unavailable, how else do I listen to them other than internet radio/CD ripping for use on my iPhone?).
    Some degree of poverty, limited availability, laziness and rebellion is also a factor.
    Otherwise tech savvy people have little interest in cluttering up limited space with heaps of (overly) expensive physical goods.

  • Cred

    now let’s see them apply this law
    10 years to all pirates, let’s see if there’s any prison big enough for the percent of the population that would go to jail if they actually meant to apply this

  • Azure

    Meanwhile rapists, pedophiles and murders can still get away with just community service when caught. Clearly the UK have got their priority straight.

  • Azure

    They just written the book to ‘How to bankrupt a country for dummies’.

  • Well, that’s it. Up till now I’ve been perfectly prepared to pay for commercial music. But that ends right now. I refuse to spend a single penny on music while this remains the law. No, I’m not turning pirate; there’s plenty of interesting stuff out there under Creative Commons licences. But if they’re going to use the power of the law to try to prevent me from transcoding music I’ve already paid for into a usable format for my own private use, then UK Music’s members can starve for all I care. Bunch of rent-seeking luddites, the lot of them.

  • Typical

    So, is itunes illegal there now?

    This is ridiculous.

  • cptk

    Now rippping CD’s is considered more dangerous than:
    * Gun running
    * Rioting
    * Assault (including race hate)
    * Dumping children
    * Carrying loaded firearms in a public place
    * Setting up firearm based boobytraps

  • cptk

    I wonder how many people Amazon is sending to jail with their autorip feature?

  • Nope Naw

    “Oh, you want to rip music from a CD you bought, for your own personal convenience? ILLEGAL!”

    Yeah, they can go fuck themselves with a rusty spoon.

  • Blank Generation

    “John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it!”

  • Dave The Sandman

    Did you read the BBC article you link to?

    “Online pirates could face jail terms of up to 10 years under plans being considered by the government.”


    “Ministers have launched a consultation on increasing it to 10 years – bringing it into line with copyright infringement of physical goods.”

    Note the words CONSIDERED and CONSULTATION. So no, the law has not changed. Its still the same.

  • One wonder of David Cameron’s United Kingdom, am I right?

  • Alex


  • >piracy is a service issue

    Funny. I keep hearing from piracy defenders that most pirates would never have bought the stuff they download. I think what the UK is considering is nonsense, but y’all need to get your stories straight.

    >Some degree of poverty, limited availability, laziness and rebellion is also a factor.

    Absolutely none of which are actual justifications.

  • Kev Lew

    I was providing context not justification.
    I do not see how trying to legally protect and support a companies unwillingness to adapt to superior distribution methods by making digital backups/copies illegal will help anyone but the people already making a lot of money.

    By all means make piracy harder to do but understanding why it is done in order to offer replacement legitimate services from which to provide a service for fair payment. That should be the priority.

    Before Steam and valve PC games sales were dropping like a rock due to extensive piracy and poor catalogue support, once steam introduced sales, a unified library and online distribution the market not only picked up, it thrived.
    For anime it took years for crunchyroll and its like to get a service out that is even a fraction of the usefulness of the illegal methods, If a new season anime is out that I want to watch there is a chance that “not available in your country” will be the message that greets me, and that’s for services I pay for on a year by year basis.
    Netflix, HBO go, Apple, Youtube, amazon, BBC Iplayer sky:go/boxsets, Twitch all these companies provided better services that cut a swathe through the traditional “publisher sells physical media only” business model without having to resort to legislative bullying tactics against people that are sick of being told HOW they must consume entertainment media.
    The main problem now is that individual publishers are unwilling to co-operate with each other and create a pay to access “centralised library” service for people willing to pay to access content on demand.

  • Matthew Dolby

    And this is why I stream my shit now.

  • Smoky_the_Bear

    They are trying to force this through because their current, traditional business models are in the throes of obsoletion and they want to rake in the money while they can. People are using things like Spotify more and more and I’m sure it doesn’t may them as much as packaging a CD and charging ridiculous amounts of money for it like they could get away with a few years ago.

  • Smoky_the_Bear

    It’s similar to how people are so anti-DRM in the gaming industry. You are essentially punishing your paying customers in order to prevent pirates that may or may not buy your stuff. It’s completely backwards imo.

    The music industry is very anti-spotify because they see their profits drop, but at the end of the day it is the most efficient way to listen to music and that is what your customers care about. They need to find a way around their issues, because whether they like it or not, the days of people spending £15 on a CD that cost about 50p to make are gone.
    Looking at it that way, it’s easy to see the music industry is just a bunch of greedy fucks, they want to churn out flavour of the month garbage which they can sell at a 2000% markup. Now they can’t do that anymore and they decide to start turning to the government rather than fixing their business model to something more realistic and long term because they are too used to raking in the money that no longer exists because people have other methods of obtaining their products than having to stick to their outmoded and ludicrous methods of distribution.

  • Nope Naw

    So, to “combat” the coming tide of purely digital media, they criminalize legitimate consumers of their old disc-based media. Yep, sounds like something a property rights group would do.

  • Ah, yes, the “piracy is a superior distribution method” claim. You do realize that there is basically no feasible way for companies to offer access to media in a way that really competes with piracy, right? That people will put up with crappy, low-res bootlegs with Chinese captions across the screen as long as it’s free?

    There’s no real evidence that companies bending over backwards to appeal to pirates actually works in any sort of consistent manner. The “legislative bullying” is a response to piracy, not just a cause. All I see is someone whining that media makes it slightly less convenient to consume their entertainment products.

  • No_Good_Names_Ever

    I wonder how far you can get away with it if you aren’t of Caucasian breeding.

  • KindraPring

    How right you are. I amended the title and details within the article to reflect the correction and left a note at the bottom explaining the change. Thank you.

  • Dave The Sandman

    Sorry Kindra….my reply was snippy and snarky and you deserved better. I apologise for being an asshat, and thankyou for making the correction.
    Keep up the good work over there at TR.

  • Sylveria Shini

    Well, Congrats UK Music, you just ensured that no one with an MP3 player ever buys another CD.

  • KindraPring

    No problem. Not even the worst I’ve gotten 🙂 I try to strive for accuracy but sometimes I mess up and I’m glad we have readers that help us stay as accurate as possible.