The government's launched a crackdown on illegal downloading

By Will Chalk
Newsbeat reporter

image copyrightHBO

Do you ever get suspicious that more people in your school or office talk about Game of Thrones than subscribe to Sky?

Well you're not alone.

The government's launched a new crackdown on illegal downloading, and as part of it they're planning to introduce tougher sentences for internet pirates.

It comes days after claims the company behind Game of Thrones has started sending out its own warnings to people who steal episodes.

image copyrightHBO
image captionShe had an episode in that bowl

What does the law say?

Your "intellectual property" is anything you create, like a song or a video, that you can't hold in your hands.

And some of it's worth big money.

The government estimates that all the intellectual property rights in the UK combined are worth more than £60bn.

At the moment online copyright infringement, stealing someone else's creation and putting it on the internet, has a maximum sentence of two years.

Illegal downloading, though, isn't a criminal offence. It's covered under civil law.

That means that the person you've stolen from can sue you to try to get their money back, but you can't be sent straight to jail.

image copyrightThinkstock

How's the government planning to tackle pirates?

The government's looking into introducing harsher punishments for the most serious offenders.

They want to put the maximum sentence for online piracy up to 10 years - the same as if you were to sell fake goods, like T-shirts or trainers, in real life.

This idea was first put forward last year, and the government's been weighing it up ever since.

But the Office of Intellectual Property has told Newsbeat it's now planning to go ahead with it.

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."

image copyrightThinkstock

She also thinks clamping down on advertising might be the way to go.

A lot of illegal downloading sites get their money from selling adverts.

In 2013 the government started sending a list of sites that were breaking the law to advertising companies.

Since then the number of these companies paying for space on the sites has dropped.

image copyrightHBO

How does Jon Snow fit into all this?

These plans have been announced days after it was claimed HBO had launched its own crackdown on people stealing episodes of Game of Thrones.

It's currently only shown on Sky Atlantic in the UK.

The show's thought to be the most illegally downloaded programme on the web, and the number of people googling "Download Game of Thrones" is on the up.

image captionThe number of people googling "Download Game of Thrones" over the past five years

But the website TorrentFreak claims people who've downloaded the show illegally have started getting a warning message reminding them that "HBO programming can be easily watched and streamed on many devices legally".

We've been in touch with HBO who haven't confirmed they were behind these messages, but they haven't denied it either.

A spokesperson in America said: "HBO aggressively protects its programming, but we find it counterproductive to publicly discuss specific anti-theft tactics."

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