U.K. gov to revamp anti-piracy laws

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LONDON -- Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown on Wednesday said that the government plans to beef-up anti-piracy laws and officially gave his endorsement of a Jan. 1 start date for the U.K. government's new film tax credit system.

Brown, delivering his pre-budget report to a packed Parliament, said the U.K. government will "tighten the penalties for copying and piracy while giving individuals new rights for personal use."

He said the move is part of a government-backed drive to bolster protection for intellectual property such as movies, television and books.

The Federation Against Copyright Theft issued a statement supporting Brown's plans.

"We welcome the statement that there will be tighter penalties for illegal copying and piracy and the recognition of intellectual property crime in the National Community Safety Plan, as well as the additional funding for enforcement by Trading Standards," FACT said.

"Film piracy has been seen by some as a 'soft' crime yet it brings harm and other serious criminal activity to local communities. Criminals made over £270 million ($358.7 million) from film piracy in 2005, making this the worst affected single sector for intellectual property crime out of all IP industries," FACT director general Kieron Sharp said. "This is revenue that has been lost to the local and national economy and is affecting British jobs."

Brown also officially endorsed Jan. 1 as the start date for the long-gestating new tax credit system.

"Since 1997, the number of films made in Britain has increased by 50%. To encourage an even more vibrant British film industry, I am today confirming Jan. 1 as the date to introduce new tax reliefs," Brown said.

The upshot is, after discussions that began nearly two years ago, tax relief will be available to filmmakers at a net rate of 16% for movies with budgets of £20 million ($38 million) and above.

For low-budget movies made for less than £20 million, the relief available stands at a net value of 20%.

Both rates apply only to the U.K. expenditure of a film's budget under tighter cultural test rules demanded by the European Commission late last month (11/24).
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