No one likes to spend any amount of time in jail.
The UK government doesn’t care though as pirates in the UK will now to go jail for 10 years.
If they are caught that is.
The Digital Economy Bill recently received a nod of approval from the royals in the UK and now the Digital Economy Bill has become law.
What does that mean for pirates?
It means that users who share files on the internet publicly can go to jail.
And if they do, it can be for, up to, ten whole years.
But one shouldn’t understand that to mean all pirates will go to jail for 10 years.
There are specific kinds of pirates that the UK government feels should not only go to jail, but go to jail for a long time.
What kind of pirates are we talking about here?
The UK government is after pirates that infringe copyright content and make it available to the public.
And all the while they know that doing so will expose the owner of that copyright file to “risk” of a loss.
The operative word here is risk.
And not loss.
IN other words, even if the owner of the copyrighted file is exposed to a risk of loss, not an actual loss, the pirate may go to jail for 10 years.
When Did It All Start
It all started in 2015.
The UK government divulged to the public it’s ambitious but controversial plan to punish pirates more severely.
The plan consisted of the government being able to send pirates to jail for an increased period of time.
Some of the readers may not know that the maximum prison sentence for copyright infringement was two years before the Digital Economy Bill.
It is now 10.
This increase of eight years is all thanks to the Digital Economy Bill which is actually a law now.
Of course, that wasn’t always the case.
Before the Digital Economy Bill became law, it was just a proposal.
And this proposal came into existence after suggestions that were put forward by the United Kingdom Intellectual Property Office.
The suggestions from UK IPO took the form of a study.
As mentioned before, this study was commissioned by the IPO in the UK.
What did the study say?
The study said a lot of things and for the obvious reasons, we can’t discuss all of those here.
But here is the conclusion of that UK IPO study:
Criminal punishments for online copyright violations were not enough.
These “old” sanctions that were available under the Copyright, Designs, and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA 1988) were simply not enough.
That’s according to the UK IPO study.
The study also concluded that the existing online sanctions should be synchronized and integrated with penalties for offline copyright infringements.
Offline copyright violations include activities related to counterfeiting products of all sorts including information products.
Baroness Neville-Rolfe, the then Intellectual Property Minister, said back then that an increase in penalties was necessary.
Why was it necessary?
Because the new tough proposed penalties for commercial scale online offending would protect businesses.
Not only that, the new sanctions would also send a loud and clear message to other criminals that they should stop online infringements.
Moving To July of 2016 When The Digital Economy Bill Was Born
It wasn’t exactly a bill at the time but it was about to become one.
In July of 2016, the United Kingdom government present, or rather published, a new version, or draft, of its document.
This document came to be known as the Digital Economy Bill.
The Digital Economy Bill, even in its earliest forms, proposed an expansion to the number of years on could spend in jail for piracy.
As mentioned before, the then current maximum prison sentence was two years.
The Digital Economy Bill suggested it be increased to, at maximum, ten years.
Should UK Citizens Be Worried?
If you believe whatever the UK government tells you that no.
You shouldn’t be worried.
Why? The Digital Economy Bill did just become law right?
But according to the government, normal citizens have nothing to be scared off.
In fact, the government has maintained this position since the beginning.
Maybe the government did that so it would have an easier time with the entire process of legislation and get the bill passed.
Who knows right?
But the UK government continues to insist that there is nothing sinister behind the new Digital Economy law.
And that regular online users who belong to the public will not be treated harshly with length punishments.
In truth however, the Digital Economy law is a bit different from the Digital Economy Bill.
The law doesn’t really corroborate what the UK government is trying to relay to the public.
Many reports in the media have mentioned the same problem with the Digital Economy Bill.
According to the Digital Economy Bill, online users are in a bit of trouble.
The new law says any online user who shares a piece of copyrighted content with the public and puts the related copyrighted holder at a risk of loss has committed a crime.
In other words, if you upload a file and that puts the copyright holder of that file to a RISK of loss, you go to jail.
Not only that, you might go to jail for a period of ten years.
That definitely sounds harsh.
Of course, there are a lot of other variables as well which will determine how long the punishment lasts.
But that does not change the fact that everyday average online users who share files on the internet might face long prison times.
Plus, there is also a little bit of confusion between uploading and downloading files and whether that makes someone a pirate as well.
Online users usually use technologies such as BitTorrent to download files.
As is the norm, sometimes the downloaded files are not exactly legal.
The confusion lies where one has to determine if an average online user can be considered to be someone who pirates on a commercial-scale.
This is where a lot of the critics of the Digital Economy law say there needs to be more specification.
For example, the Digital Economy law says that a person who infringes copyright in a work by communicating the work to the public commits an offense.
This statement from the Digital Economy law further says that if the person suspects or even has a reason to believe that he/she is infringing copyright in the work and knows or has reason to believe that communicating the work to the public might cause loss to the owner of the copyright content or would expose the owner of the copyright to a risk of loss.
The UK Government Does Not Like To Listen To Other Stakeholders
Earlier in the year, an organization that goes by the name of Open Right Groups initiated a campaign.
The aim of the campaign was to try and convince the United Kingdom government that it was being unreasonable.
Let’s make one thing clear here:
The Open Right Group actually agreed with the government that there was a need to have stricter penalties for pirates.
Especially for those pirates who engaged in online copyright infringement.
But, where the Open Right Group deviated from the government’ stance was when it came to differentiating between different users.
The Open Rights Group wanted the UK government to make sure that it targeted only large-scale copyright infringers.
And left the general public alone.
No one really knows for sure if the new Digital Economy law protects the common citizen sufficiently.
A representative from Open Rights Group recently said that the organization’s proposal was about two things.
One, that the government should set a minimum threshold which could sufficiently define commercial scale loss.
And two, the government should at least revise the term “risk of loss” and change it to “serious risk of commercial scale loss.
Open Rights Group said that their recommendations are flexible in nature.
How Does Open Rights Group Feel About Their Recommendations?
The UK government, obviously did not accommodate Open Rights Group or its recommendations.
In fact, it isn’t clear if the UK government ever considered Open Rights Group’s appeal.
To be fair to the UK government, it is rather difficult for someone to stand up and request a change in the law.
But the least the people of UK would have expected was some form of consultation with all the parties involved.
As it turns out, there wasn’t a single person in the law making process who was ready to propose minor alteration tot eh then Digital Economy Bill.
The situation gets even worse when one knows that there are other ways to punish copyright infringers.
Yes, indeed there are.
The UK legislation already had laws related to punishment of even the most basic of copyright infringements.
These punishments were processed through the country’s civil courts.
The Digital Economy Bill Got Passed Unchanged
Needless to say, the UK government didn’t take Open Rights Group recommendations seriously enough.
That resulted in the bill getting royal approval this past week.
What does that mean for the rest of the small-scale copyright igniters in the country?
Well, they are basically criminals if we’re talking about the law.
The number of these small-scale pirates probably runs into the millions.
And all of it is because the Digital Economy bill was not specific enough.
The worst part is yet to come though.
Since the Digital Economy bill has now become law, the real power lies with copyright holders groups.
As it stands now, copyright holders will decide if someone is a criminal or not.
IN fact, they could report someone to the police for a “crime” as small as sharing a single piece of copyrighted content such as a movie or a documentary.
Hypothetically speaking, a person could go to jail in the UK for sharing a single file online.
And as we have mentioned before, the jail time could be in years.
Ten in fact.
Again, the UK government says that regular online users have nothing to worry about.
And that it will not allow copyright holders to abuse the new Digital Economy law.
But no one can guarantee that it will not get abused.
New Law Or No New Law, Anime Torrent Site Gets Terminated
You don’t really need new laws to take down copyright infringing sites it turns out.
The very established anime torrent site by the name of NYAA recently went down.
In other words, it became inaccessible.
Later, reports in the media indicated that the site owners had actually lost control of the site.
They also lost control of multiple other domain names as well.
All domain names of the site were deactivated within a short few hours.
As you would expect, the site itself also became unreachable.
There are lots of theories on what could have happened.
But the most likely one is that the owner of the website actually closed it down.
With that said, some reports in the media say that the site only got taken out when responsible registries got involved.
Before the shutdown though, the hugely popular anime site NYAA ran supreme as the king of anime content sources.
It served millions of online users every month and had operated in the same business for a number of years.
Why did the site become unreachable on such a short notice is a mystery to many.
Some think the main cause of the shut down is the site’s issue with its domain name.
The main domain name that NYAA uses to serve its customers is NYAA.se
As of now, no one can access NYAA through that domain name.
If The Site’s Shutdown Is Because Of A Registry Intervening, Then The Probably Cause Of The Shutdown IS A Legal One.
Whenever the registry gets involved, there is always s legal authority behind its back.
Previously though, the people behind NYAA.se indicated that they will not deactivate their domain names.
But they did add that they will do so under a relevant court order.
Punkt SE previously said that they believed that the judicial authorities should determine whether or not it was appropriate to take legal action against a specific domain name registrant.
Furthermore, Punkt SE said, unless they were ordered to do so, there was a risk that they could call the validity of the legal process into question.
So it didn’t really make sense to take action before a ruling was passed.
Sites such as TorrentFreak have confirmed from NYAA site moderators that the shutdown was done voluntarily.
And the owners of the site deactivated the domains.
To put it another way, we won’t be seeing NYAA back anytime soon.