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Online pirates in U.K. could soon face 10-year prison terms

The U.K.’s Conservative government is considering increasing the maximum penalty for online pirates from 2 years to 10, much to the delight of copyright holders and campaign groups.

Threatening online copyright infringers with a markedly longer sentence may seem like a dramatic move, but the government insists the current laws are out of date. It says increasing the punishment would serve as a “significant deterrent” for those tempted to get involved in pirating online content, and also align the offense with those involving copyright infringement of physical goods.

According to the BBC, casual file sharers are not the target of the proposed change in legislation. The planned amendment focuses instead on those engaged in commercial-scale piracy operations that copy and distribute content such as movies, music, and software.

Related: MPAA, RIAA want anti-piracy lessons taught to elementary school kids

The government’s desire to amend the law has been prompted in part by an independent review – tasked with looking at existing laws  for both online and physical copyright infringement – that found that the “vast majority of online copyright offenders have links to further criminality.”

Intellectual Property Minister Baroness Neville-Rolfe told the BBC that copyright crime “hurts businesses, consumers and the wider economy both on and offline.”

She added, “By toughening penalties for commercial-scale online offending we are offering greater protections to businesses and sending a clear message to deter criminals.”

The government has launched a six-week consultation period on the proposals during which time interested parties are invited to voice their opinions on the plan. A final decision is expected in the coming months once the government has evaluated the responses and examined the issue further.