Government says a framework to better enforce existing laws on illegal file sharing is the better way forward
The UK Government said it will oppose international moves to criminalise illegal file sharing, Computeractive has learned.
The Acta Chapter 2 Criminal Provisions of the leaked document say that "each party shall provide for effective proportionate and dissuasive penalties" including "imprisonment and monetary fines".
The document also states that citizens could be held liable for copyright infringement if they are believed to have "incited, aided and abetted" its undertaking.
In addition the EU proposals call for the seizure of “any related materials and implements used in the commission of the alleged offence”. This could lead to people having their PCs seized.
But the UK Government has said these are not appropriate penalties for copyright infringement.
"Acta should not introduce new intellectual property laws or offences. Instead, it should provide a framework to better enforce existing laws.
"The UK is opposed to the creation of new criminal offences at UK or EU level through Acta,” a representative for the UK’s Intellectual Property Office (IPO) told Computeractive.
Jim Killock, chief executive of the Open Rights Group (ORG) said he was glad that the Government has made its position clear to Computeractive. But he also said it needs to make this opposition more public and clear to the US and EU.
“It will be intriguing to see if this opposition is reflected in the next round. They can refuse to sign," he said.
But he went on to warn that if these copyright proposals are not fought and go through, it would mean pushing new legislation through the back door and harsher punishments for civil offence in the UK.
The Acta negotiations between the European Commission, governments of the United States, Japan, Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Canada, and Mexico are taking place to address the problems of counterfeiting, copyright and other intellectual property issues.
The talks, which began in October 2006, have caused huge controversy because they have been held in secret.
More than 80 non-governmental organisations from all over the world (including Consumers International, Reporters without Borders, the Free Software Foundation and the Electronic Frontier Foundation) have condemned the secrecy and signed an open letter strongly opposing Acta.
The ninth round of negotiations is currently being held in Lucerne, Switzerland. A further round of talks is expected to be held in about six months time.
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