Criticism and support given for the Digital Economy Bill as it nears Royal Assent ahead of an expected election

News by Dan Raywood

Two sides supporting and criticising the Digital Economy Bill have been revealed as it is now in the hands of the House of Commons.

Two sides supporting and criticising the Digital Economy Bill have been revealed as it is now in the hands of the House of Commons.

Elizabeth Sparrow, president pf BCS, the chartered institute for IT, has voiced fears that its current form could mean that freedom on the internet is diminished.

She said: “This bill could have huge consequences for online activity that are currently poorly understood. The institute has highlighted the importance of the internet to citizenship, and the opportunities for everyone to participate. Those opportunities could be curtailed and even diminished if some of the proposals being discussed make it into law.

“A hastily rushed through form of the Digital Economy Bill would only increase digital exclusion and harm those most in need of and most positively affected by internet access and capability. What the research launched today shows is that the membership of the institute wants the government to ensure that more information is freely available, and not less.”

However speaking from the side of the copyright clause, John Lovelock, chief executive of FAST, urged MPs not to unreasonably delay the introduction of this important legislation as the bill passed its third reading in the House of Lords this week.

He said: “The software industry and other copyright holders in the wider creative industry welcome the attention that is being focused on copyright issues in this digital age. We urge clear action against copyright infringers using the bill's provisions after Royal Assent.

“Delaying the legislation unnecessarily in the commons will not help. The Bill has had scrutiny in the Lords to excess. FAST has lobbied for intellectual property legislation since its inception in 1984.”

Lovelock said the bill has FAST's support. “Whilst campaigners have rightly pointed out that we shouldn't allow politicians the power to meddle unrestrained with our copyright regime, let us be clear, there are checks and balances in place being eminently sensible given the rapid pace in digital technology and the difficulties in protecting intellectual property.”

The Open Rights Group has revealed that 10,000 UK citizens have written to MPs in less than three days to demand a debate on the bill. Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group, said: “It is outrageous that corporate lobbyists including the BPI, FAST and UK Music are demanding that MPs curtail democracy and ram this bill through parliament without debate. The British people did not elect UK Music and the BPI to write our laws.

“How dare they push our MPs towards punishing innocent people by disconnecting them from the internet, without proper democratic scrutiny? That is what is making our 10,000 supporters so angry – pushing this bill through without debate is undemocratic and dangerous.”


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