Mike Campaign for Harmonisation of Online/Offline Criminal Penalties Successful

Mike Weatherley, the Conservative Member of Parliament for Hove and Portslade, and former Intellectual Property Adviser to the Prime Minister, is delighted that his campaign for penalties for crime committed online to be recognised as the same as offline crime has been successful, as the findings of a Government-backed, evidenced-based review of the disparity between physical and online crimes are published.

Mike has been consistently highlighting the importance for physical and online offences to be harmonised (He called for this in Parliament on 12th March 2014 and in his report, Follow the Money: Financial Options To Assist In The Battle Against Online Piracy, available here.), as he believes that the current disparity helps facilitate the view that breaking the law when it relates to an online item is not as serious.

While a review may mean reducing the penalties for physical offences, Mike believes that a reasoned balance should be struck and the penalties the same for both types of crime.

The newly published report, entitled Penalty Fair? – was commissioned by the Intellectual Property Office in order to provide an evidence-based view on whether the criminal sanctions for copyright infringement available under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA 1988) are currently proportionate and correct, or whether they should be amended. To read the report in full, click here.

Commenting, Mike said: “I am extremely delighted that my campaign to have this legalisation addressed has been successful. It is encouraging that evidence shows the need for legislation to change in order to harmonise penalties for physical and online offences. I want to thank my colleague the Rt Hon David Willets and his team for their work on this issue and trust that the IPO will see the necessary changes through in the next Parliament.”

Mike added: “Bringing about this change has required significant pressure on Government, but I am pleased that this report once again entrenches the fact that the UK is leading the way on IP enforcement. I hope that the Government after the next election will ensure that the recommendations in the report are adopted and that overdue changes in legislation are on the horizon. Additionally, I believe that the introduction of an IP Director General would hugely benefit the UK and be an important figure for international IP collaboration.”

In a letter to Mike, Baroness Neville-Rolfe, Minister for Intellectual Property, said: “I am writing to update you on the study commissioned by the Intellectual Property Officer into criminal sanctions available for online copyright offences. I know that you have taken a keen interest in this matter and that you have pressed for action to be taken to address what you felt was an anomaly in the level of penalties available for online copyright offences.

“Given the uncertainty surrounding the potential impact brought by the increase to custodial sentences, the Government agreed to commission an independent review of the issue. In assessing the need to amend legislation, researchers have since analysed a range of a conviction data, consulted with a range of stake holders, and considered the impact of recent interventions in this area.

“The report points towards there being some logic to increasing custodial sentences for serious online copyright offences. However it does emphasise the need for appropriate safeguards to endure ordinary members of the public, whose copying is not motivated by criminal intent, are not inadvertently caught by any amended provision.”