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Howells Welcomes Piracy and Counterfeiting Bill

01 March 2001

Consumer Affairs Minister, Dr Kim Howells, today welcomed the publication of the Copyright, etc. and Trade Marks (Offences and Enforcement) Bill. This Bill, sponsored by Andrew Miller MP, will bring about some useful improvements to the criminal provisions applying to intellectual property (IP) crime, often known as piracy and counterfeiting.

IP crime now attracts career criminals because it is perceived to be a high profit, low risk crime. But IP crime has a major impact on businesses, both manufacturing and retailing, and can have a serious detrimental affect on consumers too. Increasingly, links with other organised crime are being uncovered. For example, sometimes criminals raise money from fakes to plough into crimes such as drug dealing.

Dr Howells said: "I am delighted that Andrew Miller is sponsoring this Bill which is a very useful package of measures that will improve the effectiveness of enforcement against IP crime. We have been working hard over the last couple of years to raise the profile of this serious crime in the public's eye because it does affect us all. It is right that some rationalisation and improvement of the law should now take place.

The increased penalties for copyright offences are justified because of the significant detrimental effect of this crime on us all, including consumers. Harmonising the maximum penalties at the higher level that currently exists for trade mark offences will, moreover, have a substantial deterrent effect. I hope that Parliament will support this and the other changes in the Bill that remove some current difficulties with enforcement action, and, by this support, help change attitudes that perceive IP crime as without risk."

The Bill copies the best provisions from one IP area into the others so introducing worthwhile rationalisation of the existing provisions and closing some loopholes that can lead to less than effective enforcement at the moment. The measures will also lead to greater transparency and so an improvement in the deterrent effect too. For example, the current maximum penalty for trade mark offences is an unlimited fine and/or up to 10 years in prison whereas for copyright the maximum term of imprisonment is only two years, which does not reflect the fact that copyright piracy can be just as serious as trade mark counterfeiting. The Bill will make sure that copyright offences attract the same maximum penalty as trade mark ones.

Key points in the Bill are:

* The raising of the maximum penalty for offences in the copyright and related areas - relating to making for sale and dealing in copies infringing copyright, illicit recordings of performances and unauthorised decoders for the reception of satellite broadcasts - to an unlimited fine and/or up to 10 years in prison.
* The improvement of, and in some cases the introduction of new, powers enabling the police to obtain a warrant for search of premises and seizure of evidence of an offence, so that warrants are available for all the offences in the copyright and related areas and in respect of the trade mark offences.
* The introduction of new provisions on forfeiture of illegal material which has been seized during the investigation of the offences in the copyright and related areas, modelled on the existing forfeiture provisions in trade marks law.

For information about joining the Alliance please contact
Susie Winter at susie@allianceagainstiptheft.co.uk
or on 020 7534 0595