Since the November finalization of the text, parties involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a free-trade agreement among twelve Pacific Rim nations, have had their lawyers engaged in a “legal scrub” of the document. Such activities normally never make substantive changes to the document.
However, Jeremy Malcolm at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) caught a change made during the legal scrub in the intellectual property chapter of the agreement that has far-reaching implications for copyright infringement law.
The scrub only changed the world “paragraph” to “subparagraph” in the following:
“With regard to copyright and related rights piracy provided for under paragraph 1, a Party may limit application of this subparagraph to the cases in which there is an impact on the right holder’s ability to exploit the work, performance or phonogram in the market.”
The UK appears to be attempting to take the lead in following TPP guidelines and could impose extremely harsh punishments for online copyright infringement, as the government has confirmed it is pushing for legislation that would increase the maximum sentence for web piracy to 10 years behind bars.
Baroness Lucy Neville-Rolfe, the Minister for Intellectual Property, has confirmed that the British government is leaning toward the idea of increasing the sentence to bring it into line with that for physical infringement.
“Last year the government consulted on increasing the maximum term to 10 years. We received over a thousand responses, which have played a significant part in helping to shape the discussion,” she stated in a document published on Thursday.
“As a result we are now proposing changes that include increasing the maximum sentence, but at the same time addressing concerns about the scope of the offence.”
The government argues that the current maximum sentence of two ears is not enough. “The current disparity has existed for many years and, just as the range of legitimate content services online has grown, so too has there been an increase in infringement of content online,”read the statement.
Neville-Rolfe said stressed, however, that insignificant copyright infringement of web material should not be prosecuted. “Criminal offences should not apply to low level infringement that has a minimal effect or causes minimum harm to copyright owners, in particular where the individuals involved are unaware of the impact of their behavior.”
In December of 2015, the British High Court ordered that 85 websites accused of copyright infringement be blocked.