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Tougher penalties for UK copyright thieves

Up to 10 years in jail

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A Bill which increases the maximum penalty for copyright theft in the UK from two years to 10 years has become law.

The Private Member's Bill, introduced by Liberal Democrat MP Dr Vincent Cable, also gives the authorities increased provision to obtain search warrants and powers to seize goods.

The Copyright etc and Trade Marks (Offences and Enforcement) Bill passed smoothly through both houses of Parliament before receiving Royal Assent last Friday. It will be in force in the Autumn.

The main provisions of the Copyright etc and Trade Marks (Offences and Enforcement) Bill are:


  1. Increase the penalties for copyright offences from two years to 10 years. This matches the penalty for trade mark law and also conspiracy to defraud. This rise in the penalty will be sought for cases where copyright holders suffer serious damage. The new penalty will also apply to the production of unauthorised decoders.

  2. Strengthen search warrant powers for police officers to make it easier to expose counterfeiting so warrants can now be obtained for all copyright offences, including possession and sale of infringing articles/bootlegs.
  3. Amend the current law on forfeiture, "which is a disorganised mixture of civil and criminal provisions". The new legislation will replace this and give all copyright investigations the same rights of service and forfeiture found within trade mark legislation.

Dr Vince Cable, MP for Twickenham and Liberal Democrat shadow Trade and Industry Spokesman, expressed delight that his bill had successfully passed through Parliament. The bill gives many creative industries "effective legal remedies" to fight against counterfeiting and piracy they previously lacked, he added.

"I see the bill as a triple hit - it protects consumers, it strengthens the forces of law and order in dealing with serious villains, and it should greatly reduce the £8.5 billion a year losses suffered by British industry as a result of intellectual property theft," said Cable.

Lavinia Carey, Chair of the Alliance Against Counterfeiting and Piracy (an umbrella industry group representing games developers, the music business and software publishers), said the Bill was an important step in reforming copyright and trade mark law.

"We are now in discussion with the Government about how to improve resources for enforcement to protect industry and consumers from this pernicious crime [IP theft]." ®

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