UK government clamps down on online piracy
UK government to clamp down on online piracyReuters

In an attempt to clamp down on illegal downloads, the UK government is planning to introduce harsher sentences for online pirates. The new move comes in the wake of HBO sending out copyright infringement warnings to those who illegally download episodes of Game Of Thrones.

The HBO series was the most pirated TV show of 2015 and its season 5 finale was illegally downloaded more than 14.4 million times via BitTorrent, beating other shows such as The Walking Dead, Big Bang Theory, Arrow, The Flash, Mr Rboto, Viking, Supergirls, The Blacklist and Suits.

"As the owner of the IP address, HBO requests that [ISP] immediately contact the subscriber who was assigned the IP address at the date and time below with the details of this notice, and take the proper steps to prevent further downloading or sharing of unauthorized content and additional infringement notices," reads the warning message that HBO sent to people who illegally downloaded the show.

The government is planning to impose stricter punishment to deter those involved in online piracy by imposing a maximum sentence of up to 10 years, instead of the current two. According to the government all intellectual property rights in the UK are worth more than £60bn ($86bn).

The Office of Intellectual Property has told BBCNewsbeat that it wants to go ahead with the plan to crackdown on online piracy. The plan was originally introduced in 2015, wherein ministers launched a consultation on equalising the maximum custodial sentence for online and physical copyright infringement at 10 years, as online infringement has become much more significant.

According to the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (as amended), online copyright infringement comes under "s107(2A) (communicating works to the public in the course of a business or to an extent prejudicially affecting the copyright owner)" and "s198(1A) (infringing a performer's making available right in a recording in the course of a business or to an extent prejudicially affecting the owner of such right) of the Copyright Designs and Patent Act 1988."

Punishment for these offences is a maximum of two years, whereas the maximum custodial sentence for infringement for physical goods is 10 years. Baroness Neville-Rolfe, the minister for intellectual property said, "Online crime is no less damaging or harmful than other crime - it should not get an easy ride."

"These proposals make the law clear. They provide better protection for rights holders and send a clear message to criminals looking to make a living off other peoples' hard work," she added.

Meanwhile, a HBO spokesperson told BBC, "HBO aggressively protects its programming, but we find it counterproductive to publicly discuss specific anti-theft tactics."