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Sentencing for digital piracy copyright offence

What is the sentence for digital piracy copyright offence in 2024?

Digital piracy copyright is the term used to describe the legal protection given to producers of creative works. It protects articles such as images, games, computer software, movies, television, or other entertainment. It gives the producer exclusive rights to sell and financially benefit from their production. It gives protection against their creative article being used, copied or distributed without their agreement or financial payment.

digital piracy copyright offence

These days, illegal downloading, file sharing and illicit streaming are so common that it is considered to be the norm and socially acceptable. However, if you’ve been accused of digital piracy copyright, this could be a very worrying and stressful time for you.  You should seek professional legal help immediately.

You’ll no doubt be feeling frightened and very concerned as you read this. By taking early action you may be able to navigate your way to the best outcome. The best thing for you to do now is to hire a copyright law and cybercrime solicitor who is competent and experienced.  Ideally you would be able to have the case dismissed before it reaches the court stage.

The internet makes it very easy for entertainment to be downloaded, shared or reproduced and sold without any reimbursement to the producer. Digital piracy copyright-related lawbreaking is one of the most common types of cybercrime.

To help you to understand what the outcome might be as a result of being convicted of a digital piracy offence, we’ve detailed the sentencing guidelines.  Please note that a competent and experienced solicitor may be able to get a prison sentence reduced or even avoid it entirely.

Read more information about the offence of Digital piracy copyright

Examples of digital piracy copyright offences

Copyright law offers the creator of a design or idea, legal protection to have exclusive rights over the use of that design or concept and seek payment for the use of the same. Whether it is computer software, games, music, movies, television or other form of entertainment; they are all protected from being used, copied or distributed without the producer’s consent.

Since the online influenced environment that we live in provides unparalleled access to all forms of entertainment online; the ability for copyrighted material to be reproduced and shared or sold online without reimbursement to the producer has increased dramatically, especially since access and reproduction can happen anywhere in the world.

File-sharing or streaming websites can be accessed by a mobile phone, a computer, television or set-top box and are used in contravention of copyright laws millions of times per day. However, copyright holders and law enforcement authorities rarely invest their efforts in pursuing the end user.

Vast efforts and specialist investigation teams such as the National HiTech Crime Unit, Trading Standards Agency, London’s Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) and the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) are employing substantial resources in identifying those who develop tools or create online platforms to enable piracy.

Here are some examples of digital piracy copyright offences that may have led to the circumstances that you’re now in:

Operating a file-sharing or streaming website – for example, The Pirate Bay in Sweden and Napster are well known digital copyright infringement cases. People were able to connect to the internet, use BitTorrent software and download movies, television shows and music that had a copyright on it. The outcome was a harsh penalty for breaching the Copyright Act.

Illegally stealing or sharing files that you haven’t paid for – for instance, this can result in as much as a £5,000 fine and imprisonment for five years.

Downloading music – an example of this would be using a piece of software to download videos from YouTube which is a crime.

Digitally bootlegging movies – duplicating and distributing films, music or other copyrighted material such as software is illegal.

Downloading and distributing content – there are various terms for this including ‘Online Piracy’, ‘Over-Use’, ‘Counterfeiting’, ‘Hard-disk loading’ and ‘Softlifting’.

Know that a creator doesn’t have to take any action to copyright their work, it is an automatic right. A producer may use a copyright sign on their material with their name and year of creation, but it’s not necessary to include the symbol to benefit from the protection of copyright.

What is the average sentence for digital piracy copyright offences?

Depending on what you are found to be guilty of, the sentence when convicted of breaking a digital piracy copyright law can be as much as five years imprisonment with a £5,000 fine. There may also be ancillary orders tied to the penalty.

How does a court decide on the seriousness of the digital piracy copyright offence for sentencing purposes? 

The information that judges are given with regards to sentencing are only guidelines, and each case will be looked at individually. One of the primary factors judges consider in every case of this nature is the defendant’s level of genuine remorse.

The following factors are considered when the court decides which sentence to give. The court will look at:

  • Your previous conviction(s)
  • Your level of remorse
  • Your level of cooperation with the investigation
  • Whether the activity you took part in was originally legitimate
  • Your reputation / good character
  • Whether you have any serious medical conditions that require long term, urgent or intensive treatment
  • Whether you have a learning disability or a mental disorder
  • Whether you are the sole or primary carer for related dependents

Is it possible to reduce a sentence for digital piracy copyright with a guilty plea?

In recent years, a number of changes have been made to the sentencing system in the UK to save the court time and cost and to protect witnesses from the stress of needlessly going through a trial. For offenders aged 18 and over, pleading guilty early on in a case can reduce a sentence by as much as one third (maximum). The later the plea is entered, the smaller the reduction.

  • ‘Early on’ refers to ‘the first stage of the proceedings’ and means anytime up to and including the first hearing at the Magistrates Court or Crown Court for indictable offences.
  • If a plea is entered 14 days after the first hearing, for example, the maximum level of reduction is just 20% or one fifth of the sentence. For indictable offences, the limit for a guilty plea to be made is within 28 days after the prosecutor has stated compliance with section 3 of CPIA 1996 and serving disclosure; although the decision is ultimately in the hands of the Judge who has discretion to apply whatever credit is deemed appropriate.
  • After these times there is a sliding scale of credit applied. This goes down to one tenth on the first day of the trial and to zero if entered during the course of the trial. In theory, the ten percent could be given if the plea is issued after the opening speeches on the first day, but prior to any witness evidence being heard.
  • If the accused does not want to plead guilty, then it’s important for the solicitor to regularly inform the court throughout the trial of the reasons why the client’s plea is not guilty.

What are some of the other consequences of digital piracy copyright offence?

Ancillary Orders

A court can also make ancillary orders on a defendant if they are found guilty and convicted of an offence. These are extra elements that can be added to a sentence and include additional restrictions or requirements that affect a dependent’s finances, property or activity.

Ancillary orders that are typically added to the penalty for those who are found to be guilty of digital piracy copyright include:

  • Compensation for loss
  • Restraint orders
  • Reparation orders
  • Financial reporting order
  • Confiscation orders

As part of your investigation, you may also have your assets frozen with the possibility of having cash or other assets seized.

In addition, the court may demand payment of the following if the accused is convicted:

Payment of costs applied for by the prosecutors

Although the police meet some of the costs involved in the prosecution, the costs of investigation are typically sought from the convicted. These may include the costs of:

  • The work done in obtaining sufficient evidence for prosecution either at the initial stage or later at the request of Crown Prosecution Service (CPS)
  • Seeking medical or expert evidence as part of the investigation, (where a witness is required to attend Court, the cost of the attendance falls on the CPS).
  • Re-interviewing witnesses
  • The entire costs of the prosecutor, including fees for the use of external Barristers used by the CPS, can be recovered from the defendant, subject to means. At the end of the case, the prosecutor under The Prosecution of Offences Act 1985 will request the Judge to order a sum to be paid for the costs incurred by the prosecutor in bringing the prosecution.

Victims surcharges

The term victims’ surcharges can be explained as paying compensation to a fund for victims and can range between £20 to £170 depending on what sentence you were given at conviction.

How sentences can be added to national information databases

There are several national databases that hold information about individuals and any allegations made about them, their criminal and court records. These include the DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) which was previously known as the CRB (Criminal Record Bureau) and the Police National Computer (PNC).  Depending on what happened, whether the accused is convicted and what sentence was issued, the accused may be added to one or all these databases. Their purpose is to provide information to potential employers and to regulate the ability to take part in certain activities.

If your case progresses to court and you are convicted of digital piracy copyright offences, your conviction will be noted on your CRB / police record. The period of the endorsement will depend on the nature and length of your sentence.

Below are details on how long you will be listed as holding a criminal record if convicted. This is something very serious to consider when it comes to future employment. The term ‘spent’ refers to when your name can be removed from the databases.

Rehabilitation Period
(the time it takes for the sentence to become ‘spent’)
Sentence Adult (aged 18+) at time of conviction Young person (aged under 18) at time of conviction
Prison sentences of more than 4 years Sentence is never spent Sentence is never spent
Prison sentences of more than 2.5 years (30 months) but less than 4 years Sentence length 7 years Sentence length 3.5 years
Prison sentences of more than 6 months but less than 2.5 years (30 months) Sentence length +4 years Sentence length +2 years
Prison sentences of less than 6 months Sentence length + 2 years Sentence length +18 months
Conditional Discharge Length of order Length of order
Absolute Discharge None None
Conditional Caution 3 months 3 months
Simple Caution / Youth Caution None – immediately ‘spent’ None – immediately ‘spent’
Other Including Compensation Order, Supervision Order, Bind Over, Hospital Order Length of the order / once compensation is paid Length of the order / once compensation is paid

Other cybercrime related offences

Other offences in the cybercrime law arena include:

  • Hacking
  • Disruption of computer functionality – through viruses, worms, trojans, spyware and ransomware
  • Virtual mobbing
  • Fraud
  • Online marketplaces to sell illegal goods

How Can Stuart Miller Solicitors Help?

At Stuart Miller Solicitors, we have had years of experience in supporting those accused of digital piracy copyright offences. Our solicitors are hungry to achieve wins in the court and therefore will ensure that the best possible defence strategy is constructed to support you.

With police investigations and court cases being so distressing, it’s key to hire people who are experienced at getting cases dismissed before the reach the court stage. It’s also essential that you are provided with clear instructions on what to say and do to lessen any punishment that you may receive.

In some cases, our clients have been accused of the digital piracy copyright offence, but have not been involved. It’s in these situations that Stuart Miller Solicitors come into their own. In many situations, they are able to build a case for getting your case dismissed before it goes further.

If you were involved in cybercrime, then our solicitors will use their years of experience to study the prosecution’s case carefully. A primary task will be to identify material that supports your defence. Not only that, we will ensure the prosecution have executed their duty and proven, beyond any reasonable doubt at all, that it was you who was sitting behind the accused computer and IP address which may have facilitated the commission of the offences.

If need be, we will instruct computer experts and forensic analysts to provide independent evidence supporting your case. We will gather witness statements and pro-actively uncover any other material which may guarantee the route of success in the case.

Our lawyers not only have access to renowned and leading Barristers who will be called in to meet with you, but we also have great relationships with computer experts who can be engaged to give favourable evidence in your case. These experts can not only extract evidence from your computers and servers in any format; they can also present useful material to the Court.

What will happen when I instruct a cybercrime lawyer?

When you contact us to instruct us to be your cyber crime lawyer in your digital piracy copyright case, we can then contact the police to find out more about why you are being accused. We can then investigate the information that you’ve given us to find a way to give you a strong and robust defence.

You will feel a lot more at ease about the situation as you’ll know that we are handling it for you. We have a specialist team who are very up to date on digital piracy copyright rules and regulations. Our team has helped many people just like you to achieve the best possible outcome.

Being investigated by the police puts people under much pressure. They feel worried about what the outcome might be. Will they be found guilty and given a prison sentence that will take them away from loved ones and dependents?

A competent and experienced cybercrime lawyer can secure you either a case dismissal or lessen the punishment if you are found to be guilty.

Arrest & Interview

It’s likely that the first you’ll hear about being investigated for digital piracy copyright offences is when the police invite you to the police station for an interview, which will be described by police as ‘a chat’. Under no circumstances should you attend this interview without being accompanied by a legal professional.

The primary aim of the police will be to secure your conviction. The police are trained in how to ask questions that will put you into a position where you may even incriminate yourself. With the guidance of a legal professional, ideally, a competent cybercrime solicitor who is an expert in digital piracy copyright law, you will receive the guidance and support you need to get the best possible outcome.

The lawyer will tell you what you should and shouldn’t say during the police interview. They will also put the police under pressure to disclose all the evidence they have against you. This evidence will be studied and investigated to ensure that it is legitimate and that there is no doubt that you are the person who was involved in the alleged crime.

The lawyer will also strongly encourage the police to bring the investigation to a conclusion so that you can get back to your normal everyday life. Nobody wants the pressure of a police investigation hanging over them.

At the outset of an investigation of this nature, it is commonplace for the police to seize all of your electronic devices for analysis. We understand you will feel a sense of embarrassment with such levels of intrusion into your privacy. They may be seized for weeks, months and sometimes even longer.  The lawyer will work diligently to have these returned to you as soon as possible, and to bring the case to a conclusion.

Would you like to discuss your case before instructing us?

If you’d like to have a no-obligation chat with us before you instruct us to take your case, then call us today.

In addition to giving you a free consultation, we can also represent you at the police station if you’ve been arrested. We can look at securing your legal aid.

Please Contact Us and ask to speak to our cybercrime offences lawyers and digital piracy copyright solicitors to arrange a meeting in person, online or by telephone. If you prefer, you can WhatsApp us from the link you will find at the bottom banner if you open this page on your mobile phone device.

Get in touch with us now for digital piracy copyright legal help.



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