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Video and Music Piracy, and Illegal File Sharing

23 December 2021
Criminal
Cyber Crime

Video or Music Piracy

A 2009 report carried out by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry found that 95 per cent of music downloads are unauthorised. Further research suggested that there were over 8 million file sharers in the UK. While some individual downloaders and file sharers have been pursued financially in the civil courts, criminal cases have really only been brought in the UK and abroad against UK residents if they have controlled file sharing websites or affiliate sites. Foreign cases can sometimes result in extradition proceedings.

Criminal liability for streaming and downloading copyrighted work.

Criminal liability may arise in relation to a number of offences under section 107 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. 

Under section 107 (1);

A person commits an offence who, without the license of the copyright owner:

  • makes for sale or hire or

  • imports to the United Kingdom otherwise than for his private and domestic use

  • possesses in the course of a business with a view to committing any act infringing copyright or 

in the course of business

  • sells all lets for hire or

  • offers or expenses for sale or hire or

  • exhibits in public or

  • distributes or

distributes others in the course of business to such an extent as to affect prejudicial to the owner of the copyright, an article which is, and which he knows or has reason to believe is, an infringing copy of a copyrighted work.

Of particular interest in the area of music and video piracy is ss (2A)

The person who infringes copyright in a work by communicating the work to the public-

  • in the course of a business or

  • otherwise than in the course of a business to such an extent as to affect prejudicially the owner of the copyright,

commits an offence if he knows or has reason to believe that, by doing so he is infringing copyright in that work.

Under (3);

Where copyright is infringed……

  • by the public performance of a literary dramatic or musical work, or

  • by playing or showing in public of a sound recording of film,

any person who caused the work to be so performed, played or shown, is guilty of an offence if he knew or had reason to believe that copyright would be infringed

Clearly, the wording of the legislation is far from clear. However, the law is effectively focused on penalising those who seek to distribute or make available material which infringes copyright rules, as opposed to consumers. However, in some circumstances, owners of copyright material may seek court order to obtain personal details from Internet Service Providers to of people who regularly download material. This is relatively rare, and would normally result in a warning or a civil claim rather than a criminal prosecution.

Sentencing

For an offence under ss1 the penalties are;

On summary conviction, imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or a fine not exceeding £50,000 or both. 

On indictment to a fine or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years or both.

If someone is convicted of the offence under ss 2A the penalties are; on summary conviction, 3 months and or £50,000 fine and on indictment a term not exceeding 10 years.

The offence under ss.3 is triable only summarily and carries a sentence of 3 months imprisonment and or a fine.

The Digital Economy Act 2010 received Royal Assent on 9 April 2010. But subsequently its main provisions were never bought into law, save for the very high fines now in force for some of the offences above. The legislation envisages imposing upon ISPs (internet service providers) a duty to issue warnings and thereafter slow down or suspend service to persistent unauthorised file sharers as well as disclosing the identity of offenders.

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