Tough legislation to combat counterfeiting and piracy could become law next summer after a private member's bill passed its second reading in the House of Commons at the end of last week.

The Cable's Copyright etc and Trade Marks (Offences and Enforcement) bill, named after its creator MP Vincent Cable, demands that penalties for copyright offences be increased from two to 10 years in a bid to quell the number of counterfeit goods produced every year.

"Cheap imitations [of] CDs, videos and games may look like good Christmas bargains, but they are often poor quality," said Cable. "There is also increasing evidence that the money spent on buying many fake goods is going directly to organised crime."

Many groups have pledged their support for the Bill including the BSA (Business Software Alliance), The British Brands Group and Fast (Federation Against Software Theft).

"The Cable bill is an important step forward in intellectual property enforcement," said Paul Brennan, general counsel for Fast. "Software piracy puts consumers at risk and cost UK industry billions every year, but currently the penalties are not a big enough deterrent to stop this criminal activity."

A recent BSA survey revealed pirated software amounts for over a quarter (26 percent) of all software sold.

"Piracy is moving to the internet," said Fast's Brennan. He told PC Advisor that recent problems included flyers guiding people to websites that sold illegal software.

The bill also aims to improve police powers by cutting down the formalities needed to obtain a search warrant.

Brennan said consumers should check before they purchase software that it is supplied with an original licence. He also said that consumers should look to buy boxed software rather than a lone disc as it is more likely to be authentic.

A full copy of the bill can be found on the House of Commons website.