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Sentence equity section of Gowers Review not taken up

The Federation Against Software Theft : 18 November, 2008  (Technical Article)
FAST is calling for harsher sanctions against copyright thieves as recommended in the Gowers Review of Intellectual Property
The Federation Against Software Theft has called on the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) to deliver on the promises outlined in the Gowers Review of Intellectual Property on criminal sentencing.

The IPO's consultation - Taking Forward the Gowers Review of Intellectual Property, Penalties for Copyright Infringement - is currently underway and has failed to take into account Recommendation 36 from Gowers, according to The Federation. The consultation document itself is focusing on changes to criminal sanctions in the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988.

John Lovelock, Chief Executive of The Federation, stated: "Recommendation 36 of Gowers clearly states that the penalty for online commercial copyright infringement should be increased to ten years' imprisonment to bring parity with commercial dealing in pirated works. Nowhere in this consultation document is this referred to."

"In reality all we have been presented with are three options - make no change, in other words do nothing; introduce a statutory maximum fine of £50,000 for all copyright offences or option three, a maximum fine of £50,000 for all IP offences," he added.

The Federation has argued in its response to the consultation document that from the very outset, increasing the maximum fine in a Magistrates' Court to £50,000 does not deliver the Government's pledge to implement Recommendation 36 of the Gowers Review.

"The proposals in the consultation leave the custodial sentences for copyright offence unchanged: the maximum sentence in the Crown Court for the commission of online infringement still remains at two years, compared to ten years for commercially dealing in or distributing infringed goods in the physical world," added John Lovelock.

The Gowers Review itself stated: "The intention and impact of physical and online infringement are the same. Crimes committed on the online and physical world should not be subject to different sentences. Increasing the penalties for online infringement will therefore make the law coherent."

This led to Recommendation 36, one of the many made by Gowers in his 2007 Review. It was the Government itself that endorsed these recommendations, stating that it would "be taking forward the recommendations for which it is responsible to ensure that the UK IP regime is fit for the digital age."

John concluded: "We have welcomed a number of initiatives in this consultation document such as the detailed review on Proceeds of Crime Act and the fact that this could potentially be extended to cover those who profit from online crime. But the fact still remains: the online criminal is still being treated differently and more leniently than the physical, and this flies in the face of Gowers."
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