Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Since When Was Copyright Infringement A Serious Crime?

Copyright infringement has been hitting the headlines as the copyright holders in the music and movie industry battle to control distribution of their products in the name of artists and performers. This has led to laws like SOPA and PIPA, which have been beaten down by the concerted efforts of concerned citizens, to be put forward to protect their interests. Now an alarming trend is emerging that causes many people to ask whether controversial trade agreements including TPP and ACTA are even necessary given the recent high-profile arrests of German citizen Kim Dotcom in New Zealand and a man connected with RnBXclusive.com.


What is SOCA?


SOCA tackles serious organised crime that affects the UK and our citizens. This includes Class A drugs, people smuggling and human trafficking, major gun crime, fraud, computer crime and money laundering, according to their website. Hang on a bit... isn't copyright infringement a civil, not a criminal offence?


Copyright Infringement and the law


Take a look at the copyrightservice.co.uk website. It's a civil offence. So why did Plod show up at some chap's house yesterday and arrest him for a civil offence? They don't usually touch that, not even for fraud. I found that out when I reported Stan Freeman for not paying me for the work I did on Elite Business to Business. The Copyright Service also helpfully points out that you go to a solictor to deal with this, not your local cop shop.


Is this a taste of things to come if ACTA goes through? Mind you, the fact that the domain has been seized and a man arrested tells me we don't appear to need it; the legislation we have is sufficient, if improperly applied.


Just look at this:


SOCA takedown notice


Now look at the law: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201012/cmselect/cmeuleg/428-xxx/42814.htm


Here's the part that concerns copyright infringement and its status under the law:



Enforcement agencies must therefore continue to work together to share intelligence and resources and to co-operate with each other to tackle counterfeiting at local, regional and national levels. They must ensure that they properly consider the priority that needs to be placed on work to tackle IP infringement, whether criminal or not, taking account of its economic and social harms.



However,



Deliberate infringement of copyright (piracy) on a commercial scale may be a criminal offence. There is specific legislation that outlines where an offence can occur... On a larger scale, distributing unauthorised copies as a commercial enterprise e.g. uploading films and making them widely available in the internet, using a company's computer system




- Intellectual Property Office



If you're not sure about the implications of this, contact them here: http://www.ipo.gov.uk/about-feedback?maildest=23775&src=35965.


Appropriate law enforcement or unnecessary heavy-handedness?


Okay, fine, it's possibly because it was a popular site so they could claim that the infringement was "carried out on a commercial scale." Fair dues.


Now please explain this:



The majority of music files that were available via this site were stolen from the artists



This is a direct quote from the intimidating message left on the RNBXclusive website, which has since been removed due to its nonsensical nature. Infringement is not theft, it's infringement. It's the difference between apples and pears. They're both fruit, right? Yes, but they're different.



But SOCA didn't use copyright laws to shut down the site, instead claiming conspiracy to defraud. Why? Because copyright law requires a pesky court order to block UK users from visiting the site.


No court order was sought in this case for SOCA to take out the site. Instead, after arresting the site's owner in Leicestershire this week, police went straight to the source, paying the hosting company -- which is not based in the UK -- to replace the site with an intimidating message. - CNet



Wait, what? They PAID the hosting company to replace the site with an intimidating message? Hang on... none of that sits right with me at all. There's a lot more going on behind the scenes than any of us know but that is terrifying. Will it fall flat when a judge throws it out for improper procedure or is this a taste of things to come? In which case the question is, who's next?

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