Aaron Swartz rolls in his grave

(Acclaimed News) Online piracy is an ever-increasing problem for the power-crazed music and film corporations who have been lobbying for years for changes to be made to the way the law deals with copyright offences.

The British government has now revealed that is looking to increase the amount of jail time for people convicted of online copyright infringement. The current penalty carries a maximum of two years imprisonment but ministers are considering increasing it to 10 years.

Creative industry representative groups have called for stronger deterrents and updates to the laws covering online piracy, arguing that a short jail sentence is not enough to prevent the problem.

Although the police have stated that small-time downloaders have little to fear from the proposed measures, there are methods available to crack down on them.

The consultation primarily targets those who are distributing pirated content online to enable the mass downloading of movies and music, sometimes even before their release date.

There is likely to be heated debate during the consultation process, with questions being raised by internet rights groups over the involvement in police operations of high profile individuals in the music and film industries who appear to have a strong influence over practices. Copyright crime is even being investigated in police stations by staff whose payroll has been funded by top Hollywood studios and music labels.

Although aimed at the freedom of scientific knowledge, the Guerilla Open Access Manifesto by the late cyber-activist Aaron Swartz, is still fitting in this instance:

“Information is power. But like all power, there are those who want to keep it for themselves. The world’s entire scientific and cultural heritage, published over centuries in books and journals, is increasingly being digitized and locked up by a handful of private corporations.”

His manifesto also states:

“But all of this action goes on in the dark, hidden underground. It’s called stealing or piracy, as if sharing a wealth of knowledge were the moral equivalent of plundering a ship and murdering its crew. But sharing isn’t immoral — it’s a moral imperative. Only those blinded by greed would refuse to let a friend make a copy.”

Internet rights groups have suggested that more flexible and affordable methods of accessing new music and movies is the best way to prevent piracy, rather than extended jail sentences for offenders.

Speaking to the media, Intellectual Property Minister Baroness Neville-Rolfe said:

“The government takes copyright crime extremely seriously – it hurts businesses, consumers and the wider economy both on and offline.

“Our creative industries are worth more than £7 billion to the UK economy and it’s important to protect them from online criminal enterprises.

“By toughening penalties for commercial-scale online offending we are offering greater protections to businesses and sending a clear message to deter criminals.”

Interestingly, Baroness Neville-Rolfe is well connected in the corporate world; before stepping into Parliament she was Tesco’s Company Secretary and Director of Group Corporate Affairs. Her responsibilities also included government lobbying.

She recently voted against amendments to the Modern Slavery Bill that would protect victims.

Industry groups will no doubt point to subscription services such as Spotify and Netflix as evidence that the entertainment industries are trying to offer just such methods, however those who only wish to access free content will never subscribe to any legal service, no matter how cheap or convenient. It’s time for Hollywood to adapt or die.

Sources:

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/446515/Changes_to_penalties_for_online_copyright_infringement.pdf

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-33578180

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