back to article UK govt admits it pulled 10-year file-sharing jail sentence out of its arse

The UK government's Intellectual Property Office (IPO) has admitted it simply made up an official justification for 10-year jail sentences for copyright-infringing file sharers. In response to a freedom of information request by The Register asking for details on the "unpublished research" that was cited in defense of the …

  1. Sebastian A

    So is anyone going to be held to account?

    Blatantly lying to the public, falsifying research, general incompetence. Sounds like there should be some peoplepolishing up their resume. What's the bet there'll be some basic "oops, you caught us, we won't do it again. No harm done, right?" statement and everyone will stay right where they are (if they're not given a promotion).

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Re: So is anyone going to be held to account?

      Blatantly lying to the public, falsifying research, general incompetence. Sounds like there should be some peoplepolishing up their resume someone is jockeying for being chosen as the next home sec!

      1. Someone Else Silver badge

        Re: So is anyone going to be held to account?

        Blatantly lying to the public, falsifying research, general incompetence. Sounds like there should be some people polishing up their resume someone is jockeying for being chosen as the next home sec! your Republican Party, 2016!

        There, FTFY, again.

        1. Captain DaFt

          Re: So is anyone going to be held to account?

          Maybe I should get a job as an editor?

          "Blatantly lying to the public, falsifying research, general incompetence. Sounds like any Government, ever!"

          There, was that so hard?

    2. JeffyPoooh
      Pint

      Re: So is anyone going to be held to account?

      Those involved should serve, oh, ten years.

      1. Natasha Live

        Re: So is anyone going to be held to account?

        They will. In a high paying Civil Service role.

      2. h4rm0ny
        Mushroom

        Re: So is anyone going to be held to account?

        Why? On the basis of a misrepresentative article by a biased journalist?

        We just had an article on this which was equally misleading. Now we get another which describes analysing and reaching a conclusion as "made up" and "pulled from its arse". By this author's criteria you can include pretty much every decision as "made up".

        As this article is pretty much the same re-tread as the last, I feel entitled to re-tread my response from last time. So here's my view on it minus hyperbole about making things up and implications that domestic file sharers are going to be sentenced to ten years in jail. Note the use of things such as reference to actual past sentences in the UK, etc. So...

        Presumably everyone outraged by this also thinks that when an ISP promises "up to 100Mbps" that's what they'll get. Or that because you can get up to two years for dangerous driving, you'll get two years for accidentally going through a red light.

        This is about harmonizing offline and online penalties so that someone producing knock-off DVDs gets treated the same as someone transferring ISOs online. It's not about upping the penalties.

        Let's look at actual prosecutions resulting in multi-year sentences in the UK. To recall two, we had a guy who traded in $20million of pirated software and made a very handsome profit on that. He got seven years, iirc. The other multi-year sentence I can recall was someone running a piracy site and he was channelling about £50,000 advertising revenue per month through Latvian banks to South American-registered companies. I don't recall how long that person got, but it was less than ten years.

        If you're someone at home distributing some movies via BitTorrent, you're not going to get a decade inside, you're going to get a fine, in all but the most exceptional cases.

        Discretion in sentencing is a thing and exists for a very good reason. Meanwhile El Reg. and Ars Technica go into a feeding frenzy of click-bait profits whilst freetards go into moral outrage and complain about comparisons to manslaughter. Well home torrenters aren't going to be sentenced the same way as people committing manslaughter and if you throw out all historical evidence from this country to the contrary, and refuse to acknowledge that maximum sentences are not the be all and end all of how you assess a law, then you're wilfully trying to be outraged because you enjoy it. As the author of this article does. Got to get those clicks!

        So why should we harmonise penalties between online and offline behaviour? The silly argument I've seen arguing against this is that if you steal a warehouse full of DVDs, you're depriving someone of something but if you copy the data you're not. This is silly.

        Both are methods of depriving the content producer of payment for their product. Unless for some incalculable reason you think the primary cost of producing a movie or album is the plastic that goes into the DVD, then it really makes no difference how you take it without paying for it. This is a fact.

        The other is the perennial "I wouldn't have bought it anyway". This too is flawed.

        This is you deciding unilaterally the worth of someone's work and depriving them of a say in it. You declare it's not worth £10 but is worth £0, so it's therefore okay for you to take it for £0. Trade depends on both parties being able to negotiate on a price. If the seller prices it too highly, you choose not to buy. If you find it worth the price they demand, you do choose to. Taking it at a price that the seller does not agree to is theft, even if (especially if) that price is £0. The customer always wants everything cheaper, that's why they don't get to set the prices of it unilaterally.

        Also, utterly absurd to argue from a position that piracy doesn't cost sales. Whilst the comments sections of IT news sites seem to be filled with people who pirate nothing that they would ever buy, the real world contains people I know who absolutely use piracy as an alternative to buying, renting or cinema.

        And before I get the utterly predictable retort that this doesn't mean that every pirated good is a lost sale, let me point out I haven't made such an argument.

        Some people take what they read by this author at face value. Either through trust or because they like being outraged. The article is misleading people. They don't want to imprison domestic file sharers for ten years as supported by our own UK history on this. What they want is to slap a fine on you and say "don't do it again." Unless you happen to be engaging in large-scale software piracy for profit which is more what this is about despite the frothing rant that has just attempted to pass itself off as journalism without so much as pretending to consider the opposing view.

        As this is the second such rabble-rousing, context ignoring article, I can only presume that the author loves their status as official angry mob spokesperson more than they prefer actually taking an objective view on the context of this law.

        1. Steve Todd

          Re: So is anyone going to be held to account?

          @h4rm0ny - so you missed the stuff about parliament saying no, 10 years is too long, we need an independent review, and the review saying no, it's too long, and more than 2/3rds of all the responses for comment saying that it was too long also? What do we get after all of that? They try to push through 10 years again.

          As with most badly framed and thought out laws, what starts out as something targeted at serious crime ends up being used against people committing low level indiscretions. Trying to create laws based on the cries of a special interest group, without taking in to account public opinion and without proper attention to its effects is bound to end in tears.

          1. h4rm0ny

            Re: So is anyone going to be held to account?

            >>"@h4rm0ny - so you missed the stuff about parliament saying no, 10 years is too long, we need an independent review, and the review saying no, it's too long, and more than 2/3rds of all the responses for comment saying that it was too long also?"

            No, I didn't miss that the public response was overwhelmingly against it. But then I look at vast upvoting for things here that I know are factually wrong and I recognize that in all probability much of the public feedback was similarly misguided. If you do a public consultation about rationalizing penalties for the same crime between online and offline methods, and 70% of the feedback is people who plainly haven't understood the proposal that doesn't mean throwing out the law is a good response. And in fact, I've read the response. It comments on the concerns people raised and provides citations that explain the misconception if people bothered to read it. But instead we get articles like Kieran's here which scan through it looking for something to attack, find a phrase like "Such information was derived from our analysis of the evidence and opinion provided to us by a wide spectrum of interested parties, over the consultation period." and translate that as "they admit they pulled it out of their arse".

            That's just bad reading. So no, I haven't missed it, I've responded with facts and reason. Truth isn't determined by popularity as voting here demonstrates.

            1. Steve Todd

              Re: So is anyone going to be held to account?

              @h4rm0ny - it wasn't just the public who were saying that 10 years is too long, it was parliament and the independent review. I've nothing against harmonising the sentences, but the implication is that the sentence for physical rather than online breach of the law is too high.

              The other objection is the sloppiness of the drafting. Make it clear what is considered a serious offence under this law or it WILL get used on folks sharing torrents.

        2. Dabooka
          Stop

          Re: So is anyone going to be held to account?

          @h4rm0ny

          Some good points there, and all but the most fervent supporter of pirating would have to acknowledge you that. But....

          You missed the point. The point as I see it, is the fact that a government office has played footless and fancy free to artificially create justification for their proposals and conclusions. Say that again, slowly.

          They made stuff up and tried to tell us it was based on something tangible.

          If this doesn't concern you, keep an eye out on my soon-to-be-released proof that the earth is indeed flat. It's based on the Flammarion engraving, 'unpublished research' and some tweets by the rapper B.o.B, so pretty much irrefutable

          1. h4rm0ny

            Re: So is anyone going to be held to account?

            >>They made stuff up and tried to tell us it was based on something tangible.

            The problem is that the author's definition of "made stuff up" appears to include "reached a decision". You're quoting the article and I consider this article biased, click-bait and grossly misleading. And I have supported that.

            >>If this doesn't concern you, keep an eye out on my soon-to-be-released proof that the earth is indeed flat. It's based on the Flammarion engraving, 'unpublished research' and some tweets by the rapper B.o.B, so pretty much irrefutable

            Facetious analogy is facetious, I'm afraid. We're not talking about being unaware of some objectively provable fact. We're talking about people putting together some proposed laws. And the proposal is based on harmonising existing laws which allow a difference between sentencing for the same crime depending on if it's committed online or offline. Which is plainly a bad state of affairs. People complain about the law not keeping up with technology. This is an instance of it doing so.

          2. Frumious Bandersnatch

            Re: So is anyone going to be held to account?

            has played footless and fancy free

            It's "footloose". DJ Food explains the difference at the end of The Ageing Young Rebel (Gentle Cruelty).

            (posted more so I can share the link than to chide you for an easy mistake)

            1. Dabooka

              Re: So is anyone going to be held to account?

              I'll watch the link when I return home; I'm at work and once bitten twice shy...

              It's odd as I know damn well it's footloose not footless, but as I wasn't using my mobile so no autocorrect to blame, I'll have to fall on my sword on this one. Most bizarre!

              Shame Harmony still isn't seeing the real issue here, although I maintain his stance on the wider problem is a sound one with merits.

    3. FIA Silver badge

      Re: So is anyone going to be held to account?

      Blatantly lying to the public, falsifying research, general incompetence. Sounds like there should be some peoplepolishing up their resume

      Good point, next step is Middle East peace envoy, right?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: So is anyone going to be held to account?

        Good point, next step is Middle East peace envoy, right?

        .. and be talked about in a feature film set like the Warricker trilogy (cleverest move ever IMHO - there is no way they would have been ever able to state things like this directly in a newspaper, so they made a movie about it instead).

  2. matchbx
    Big Brother

    It makes one wonder!

    What was being said in private behind closed doors?

    1. Danny 14

      Re: It makes one wonder!

      or being offered.

  3. Shadow Systems Silver badge

    O.O! Government corruption? *GASP!*

    <HomerSimpson>Say it ain't so!</HomerSimpson>

    Is anyone really surprised anymore over all the various corruption stories proving the people in power need to be taken out, stood against a wall, & asked for their last requests?

    *Wanders away, shaking head sadly & muttering about Vogons*

    1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      Re: O.O! Government corruption? *GASP!*

      perhaps i could cheer you up with a poem?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: O.O! Government corruption? *GASP!*

      I'd rather see a slower punishment for them: perhaps being forbidden to own property (or have it held on their behalf) above a day's minimum wage's worth, thus moving them from the top of the economic scale to the bottom. And perhaps not letting them associate with each other, and not spend the night within a three mile radius of anywhere they've been in the last month, thus making them into tramps.

  4. Huns n Hoses

    ...

    “Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality.”

    ― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

    1. Martin
      FAIL

      Re: ...

      “Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality.”

      ― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

      I know Alice pretty well, and I am sure that phrase does not appear anywhere in it. But it's always good to check...good old Gutenburg.

      And what do you know - the word "imagination" does not appear anywhere in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland or in Through the Looking Glass.

      It's interesting that the phrase appears all over the internet - most people believe that it's said by the Cheshire Cat. But it ain't.

      So, it's quite a nice phrase - it might even be Lewis Carroll - but it's nothing to do with Alice.

      1. Efros

        Re: ...

        “Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality.”

        Jules de Gaultier a French philosopher.

        1. Martin
          Happy

          Re: ...

          Well, at least I can't prove that one is wrong, as I assume it was originally in French, and I'm not an expert on French Philosophers.

          It may well be right. But I'd still like a little more evidence.

      2. Pedigree-Pete
        Joke

        Re: Alice...

        *Who the fsck is Alice*

        1. Frumious Bandersnatch

          Re: Alice...

          I think she had a restaurant ...

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Alice...

            I thought she was a barrel maker.

  5. John Tserkezis

    "You couldn't make it up."

    It seems you could.

    1. Spacedinvader

      Re: "You couldn't make it up."

      It would appear we don't need to...

    2. Frederic Bloggs

      Re: "You couldn't make it up."

      And they did.

    3. JustWondering

      Re: "You couldn't make it up."

      When making things up, it has to sound plausible. Real life is under no such constraint.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's almost as if there's a 'murican behind the scenes, corrupting the democratic process.

    "We did suggest the death penalty, but those commie Europeans have abolished that unfortunately."

    1. GrumpyKiwi
      Big Brother

      You guys don't need any American help in coming up with retarded laws.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        But the imported ones have so much more flair, razzamataz and general Hollywood-ness than our own rather drab domestic efforts

      2. Robert Helpmann??
        Big Brother

        Man Behind the Curtain

        You guys don't need any American help in coming up with retarded laws.

        However, if legislation is introduced to privatize your prison system this may bear closer scrutiny.

    2. Eddy Ito

      I think you'll find that Serco, G4S and Sodexo were likely the folks behind the scenes. Although I find it rather cute you think the process is in any way democratic.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I went to college with Iain Wright - he used to list on his CV that he trained as an accountant but he missed the word 'turf' off the front - since he actually worked for the local bookie...

    Fear not, he's now in charge of our space programme - what could possibly go wrong?

    1. Frederic Bloggs

      Cut the man *some* slack

      There is a chance that he might actually be good at Maths. Which would be a novelty anywhere in government.

      1. Rich 11 Silver badge

        Re: Cut the man *some* slack

        That just means he'll be fractionally better at lying with statistics.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Rule by decree

    That's what dictators do. And feudal overlords and ladies. Absolute power and all that. Because they can.

    No wonder they want to abolish FOI and human rights legislation - just think of what they can get away with then.

    The UK is going backwards.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Rule by decree

      and the US and Canada

      1. JeffyPoooh
        Pint

        Re: Rule by decree

        AC "[backwards] ...and Canada."

        Canada turned around, starting about six months ago.

        1. Michael Thibault

          Re: Rule by decree

          "Turned around" is not to say 'reversed direction'. Remember PET: 'signal left, but turn right'. Fool me once, shame on you...

  9. Youngone Silver badge

    Surprise

    I'm sure they did consult with interested parties, and are probably too embarrassed to admit the Hollywood cartel are the only ones who think 10 years for file sharing is appropriate.

    After all, Hollywood doesn't have to pay for the prisons do they?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Surprise

      I can't see how jail time is justified unless the crime itself causes harm to others and the person is a risk of hurting someone again?

      If someone attacked me, yes jail time, if someone stole my wallet but left me unharmed, community service and restitution seems much more appropriate.. If someone breaks into a house once.. community service.. if they do it repeatedly, jail time...

  10. Oengus
    Thumb Up

    Thumbs up

    I love the image associated with this story. I want to be able to give it two thumbs up...

    1. Sebastian A

      Re: Thumbs up

      They wanted to use goatse but that didn't make it past the editors.

  11. Peter Prof Fox

    Larger and more pointy stick!

    Well done the registrar for FOIing.

    (I have my own battle against bastards, so I know how scummy they can be.) In the public interest, I wish every MP, Off-shore Multinational,...um one of us who just has a look in the web, will poke these self-appointed and un accountable turnds with a larger and more pointy stick.

  12. Howard Hanek
    Childcatcher

    Fiscal Responsibility

    .....seems to be totally absent. WHAT is the cost per annum for incarceration compared to the money damages copyright holders suffer? It seems to be so out of proportion that Draconian hardly describes the penalty.

    1. Red Bren
      Pirate

      Re: Fiscal Responsibility

      Can't upvote this enough!

      How does the cost of incarceration compare with the tax returns of the "victims"? How do the tax returns of the "victims" compare with the alleged losses these "crimes" cause? Will HMRC see a huge increase in tax receipts when these losses translate into sales?

      1. h4rm0ny

        Re: Fiscal Responsibility

        Well previous recipients of multi-year prison sentences in the UK for piracy have included people who traded over twenty-million in pirated software so probably the ratio is pretty high. Conversely, find me domestic file-sharers who received multi-year prison sentences in the UK courts over just getting a fine. Found any...? No? So maybe you shouldn't be upvoting spurious posts about imprisonment costs because you can't back it up with this actually happening in the UK.

  13. Florida1920
    Headmaster

    You couldn't make it up.

    But the IPO did!

  14. Tony S

    Facepalm

    The sad thing is that this story will not appear in mainstream media; the people prefer the more interesting fictions that are put out as "news"

    1. h4rm0ny

      Re: Facepalm

      It's unlikely to appear in mainstream media because the author of this piece has massively misrepresented things in both their recent articles on this.

      1. Bronek Kozicki

        Re: Facepalm

        oh? More details please.

  15. gnufrontier

    It's all arse

    Just about everything inside most people's heads is just made up stuff. If it isn't science or mathematics it's just a pile self serving crap that keeps people in line, helps sell products and make the school tie set look like they earned their place rather than having it be just a vaginal legacy.

  16. Efros

    Makes you wonder

    Who those 21 stakeholders are to have such an influence over such a policy. Name them!

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: Makes you wonder

      At a guess:

      Sony

      Columbia

      20th Century Fox

      etc

  17. sikejsudjek

    Its getting to the point where if someone is accused of copyright theft they'd be better attacking the accuser with a knife and going down for that instead. Maybe the powers that be haven't thought of that. Or maybe they will use that as an argument to bring back hanging for downloading mp3's. Perhaps the rights holders need to stop acting like the mafia, and make sure their products are available on all platforms at a reasonable price. Why do mp3 downloads need to cost more than having a cd produced and delivered ?

    1. Wommit

      @sikejsudjek

      A long time ago a group of entrepreneurs decided to redirect some rubbish that was going to be burned. So they stopped the train, removed the mail bags and took some money (OK a LOT of money.) Ho Hum, win some lose some. The authorities seemed to be furious at this flagrant abuse of 'the establishment.' (Don't forget they robbed the Royal Mail.)

      When caught and tried for this heinous crime they were sentenced to 30 years each.

      This sentence, which was far more than usually given for murder, shocked the UK. The result was that, knowing that the judges might be very harsh on robbers, the perpetrators started killing those police officers and members of the public trying to stop or arrest them. After all, their reasoning went, if I am gonna do porridge for 30 years, I might as well chance another 14 years, concurrently, and maybe get away with both.

      Was it Einstein that said "There are only two infinite things, the universe and human stupidity. And I'm not sure about the universe."

      1. Martin
        WTF?

        Re: @sikejsudjek

        "When caught and tried for this heinous crime they were sentenced to 30 years each."

        Bear in mind they were not just robbers - they were armed violent criminals who beat up the train driver and at least two other people. It actually was a heinous crime.

        "This sentence, which was far more than usually given for murder, shocked the UK."

        Murder was then, as now, a mandatory life sentence, with a recommendation for a minimum term. Thirty years, though significant, is less than life. And they all served far less than thirty years. And did the sentences really "shock the UK"? Any evidence for that?

        "The result was that, knowing that the judges might be very harsh on robbers, the perpetrators started killing those police officers and members of the public trying to stop or arrest them."

        Do you have any actual evidence for this remarkable assertion?

        1. Wommit

          Re: @sikejsudjek @Martin

          Perhaps you never lived through those times. Maybe you have and have forgotten the outrage at the given sentence. These were reported as some of the longest sentences ever given in British criminal history. However it is true that even then a 'life' sentence doesn't mean 'for the rest of your natural life.' That very rarely happens. A minimum of 14 years was more the norm.

          Please note that Mr Justice Edmund Davies told the robbers that "to deal with this case leniently would be a positively evil thing" and duly sent most of them down for 30 years. Yet the previous year the same judge had reduced the sentence on appeal of one Charles Connelly, who had been involved in a robbery in which a van driver in Mitcham, Surrey, was shot dead. Cutting his term from 15 to 10 years, Davies said: "The sentence was excessive."

          Jack Mills, the driver, was the only one injured, beaten over his head with an iron bar. This type of violence would usually merit a sentence of around 5 years.

          Bruce Reynolds, the alleged master mind is said to have told police on his arrest that those sentences had had a detrimental effect. According to him, they had prompted criminals generally to take guns with them when they set out on robberies.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Train_Robbery_%281963%29

          http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2013/aug/08/great-train-robbery-10-things

  18. BurnT'offering

    At least we now have a new euphemism for toilet

    I'm off to spend 10 minutes in the Think Tank

  19. Big_Ted
    Big Brother

    Your all missing the point of who THE "Stakeholder" is

    Who is it visits No 10 and meets with the Cameron's etc all the time and has a BIG interest in charging you for your online content ?

    Why look its good old Rupert Murdock . . . . .

    He pays them enough cash and good press etc to get them to kiss his ass any time he wants.

    Put him top of your list as the front man for the rest as well and I bet your not too far off the truth....

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Lots of made up stuff

    So the Baroness made up the "research" she claims was unpublished. Perhaps she mislead the auditors of the report? Now where have I heard that phrase before?

  21. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    this logo is rather neat

    I applaud! Now, can we sign a petition to have it officially changed?!

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "ongoing exchanges with stakeholders"

    And, ladies and gentlemen, the opening bid is 1 year in prison for the thieving scum... One year bid, now two, now two, will honorable ladies and gentlemen give me two? Two year bid, now three, now three, who's gonna give me three years' worth of imprisonment for the pirating scum now?! Yes!, I can see a hand there! There's three years for the thieving terror-spreading scum, we have three years ladies and gentlemen...

  24. Pat Att

    All to be expected

    Recent governments have a history of ignoring the recommendations of their own advisors on IP matters. The Gowers IP review some years ago said that there was no justification for increasing copyright term on music recordings. So, they bumped it from 50 years to 70 years. Cliff Richard (spit) is clearly a good persuader.

    1. Wommit

      Re: All to be expected

      Pat, Spit was a ventriloquists dog.

      HTH

  25. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Actually the research came to us over a long long long long long long lunch

    with a lobbyist and we were too pissed to check its veracity when we got back from the Maldives. Sorry lunch.

  26. Chris Parsons Bronze badge

    Who will rid me of this troublesome government?

    Mind you, what's the alternative? We're bereft of (wo)men of stature.

  27. JohnG

    Maximum sentence for theft: 7 years

    Offence: Theft - General

    Legislation: S1 Theft Act 1968

    Mode of Trial: Either way

    Statutory Limitations & Maximum Penalty: 7 years

    http://www.cps.gov.uk/legal/s_to_u/sentencing_manual/theft_general/

  28. Winkypop Silver badge
    Big Brother

    It's freedom, Jim

    But not as we know it.

  29. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

    There's a proper term for that: policy-based evidencemaking.

  30. Unicornpiss
    FAIL

    Reprehensible.

    Enough said.

  31. rtb61

    Crack Down on Copyright Law Obuses

    So what is the phrase, oh yes, the best laws money can buy. What was the real intended scam, makes parents pay tens of thousands in penalties or see their children go to prison for using bittorrent software or any other software sharing service, really sick stuff.

    It is time to take a long hard look at the whole idea of the government created false market of copyright, and why it has become copywrong.

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