9 April 2010

Digital economy bill rushed through wash-up in late night session




The House of Commons during the Committee stage of the digital economy bill, April 2010 [this caption was amended on 8 April 2010. It originally said that the Bill was at the third reading]


Government drops clause on orphan works but inserts amendment criticised as over-broad which could block sites based on 'intent'


by Charles Arthur

The government forced through the controversial digital economy bill with the aid of the Conservative party last night, attaining a crucial third reading – which means it will get royal assent and become law – after just two hours of debate in the Commons.

However it was forced to drop clause 43 of the bill, a proposal on orphan works which had been opposed by photographers. They welcomed the news: "The UK government wanted to introduce a law to allow anyone to use your photographs commercially, or in ways you might not like, without asking you first. They have failed," said the site set up to oppose the proposals.

But despite opposition from the Liberal Democrats and a number of Labour MPs who spoke up against measures contained in the bill and put down a number of proposed amendments, the government easily won two votes to determine the content of the bill and its passage through the committee stage without making any changes it had not already agreed.

Tom Watson, the former Cabinet Office minister who resigned in mid-2009, voted against the government for the first time in the final vote to take the bill to a third reading. However the vote was overwhelmingly in the government's favour, which it won by 189 votes to 47.

Earlier the government removed its proposed clause 18, which could have given it sweeping powers to block sites, but replaced it with an amendment to clause 8 of the bill. The new clause allows the secretary of state for business to order the blocking of "a location on the internet which the court is satisfied has been, is being or is likely to be used for or in connection with an activity that infringes copyright".

The Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming protested that this could mean the blocking of the whistleblower site Wikileaks, which carries only copyrighted work. Stephen Timms for the government said that it would not want to see the clause used to restrict freedom of speech – but gave no assurance that sites like Wikileaks would not be blocked.

Don Foster, the Liberal Democrats' spokesman for culture, media and sport, protested that the clause was too wide-ranging: "it could apply to Google," he complained, adding that its inclusion of the phrase about "likely to be used" meant that a site could be blocked on its assumed intentions rather than its actions.

The Lib Dem opposition to that amendment prompted the first vote - known as a division – on the bill, but the Labour and Conservative whips pushed it through, winning it by 197 votes to 40. The next 42 clauses of the bill were then considered in five minutes.

Numerous MPs complained that the bill was too important and its ramifications too great for it to be pushed through in this "wash-up" period in which bills are not given the usual detailed examination.

However the government declined to yield – although it had already done a deal with the Tories which meant that a number of its provisions, including clause 43 and the creation of independent local news consortia, would not be part of the bill.


in: The Guardian, 08.03.2010


14 comments:

  1. Just another step for the UK to head towards a totalitarian state. To see that this aim is not restricted to the Labour party is disheartening.

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  2. Why would you imagine it would only be Labour that would consider this a good thing?

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  3. What kind of world are we heading for!

    Obviously the powers that be are planning on moving towards some kind of world Marxist/Fascist state where no one is allowed freedom of speech, all are dependent on the Governemnt for every aspect of their lives, and we will be controlled from cradle to grave by a tiny elite with vast means to impliment their rules.

    Hitler and Stalin are alive and well and living in Europe.

    May God help us.

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  4. This will now lead to the death of freedom of speech on the internet.
    Time to go back to the things we were doing before the internet arrived, like reading books perhaps....oh, hold on, they've started burning those things now haven't they!
    ~x(

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  5. All the UK political parties are no good, they are all out to feather their own nests. Cameron will be no good, we need to get rid of Brown, clegg has no chance, I will spoil my vote no confidence in any of them. The UK is a joke. God bless Portugal. Kate and Gerry rule the world.

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  6. According to the French State Secretary to the Family, Nadine Morano, we will have to have an international internet police - why? - to stop the worldwide spread of rumours such as those concerning the alleged "troubles" of the French presidential couple...

    Find the pretext... and this is the future.

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  7. Back to dial up bulletin boards

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  8. There is no difference in dogma between Labour and the Conservatives. They both agreed to invade Iraq and both want to curb civil liberties even further and censor free speech. The UK is getting more right wing by the year.

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  9. Hold-on Anonymous #5
    It seems the Lib-Dems were the only ones who opposed this Facism.
    Whilst you might not think they may win, your vote still counts. I wonder if all the people who thought they had no chance actually voted perhaps it would make a big difference. Are you really going to say you did absolutely nothing then complain?

    On the subject though, it would be hard to enforce, even in china people can still get access to "blocked" sites.

    Robert J Hiengler

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  10. Saturday's Sun reporting Hewlett died in Germany four months ago, taking his "secrets" with him.

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  11. Digital Economy Bill passed by House of Commons

    OUT-LAW News, 08/04/2010

    The Digital Economy Bill has been passed by the House of Commons and will become law before the general election. The Bill was passed amidst criticisms from inside and outside of Parliament about the lack of Parliamentary time and debate given to it.

    The Bill was designed to implement last summer's Digital Britain Report, itself the result of a long and extensive research and consultation process. Its most controversial proposals, though, were added in later without such consultation.

    Business Secretary Lord Mandelson is widely believed to have been behind the insertion into the Bill of a provision to cut off the internet access to households where one user has been accused of copyright infringing behaviour.

    The power for ministers to force internet service providers (ISPs) to disconnect households or businesses has been controversial and digital rights groups have attacked the fact that it can be carried out without court oversight under the plans.

    Conservative and Liberal Democrat peers introduced a clause allowing for the blocking of websites which were being used for mass copyright infringement when the law was debated in the House of Lords.

    Though they retracted that amendment, the Government proposed a very similar one soon after which extends to the blocking of online locations that are 'likely to' be used for infringement.

    Neither of these proposals, seen by activists as the most damaging to the rights of web users, were in the original Digital Britain Report.

    "This is an utter disgrace. This is an attack on everyone's right to communicate, work and gain an education," said Jim Killock, executive director of protest group the Open Rights Group. "Politicians have shown themselves to be incompetent and completely out of touch with an entire generation's values."

    The Bill was passed in an accelerated and truncated Parliamentary process called the 'wash up', used when a general election has been announced to rush legislation through before the break up of Parliament.

    The wash up can only be used for unopposed legislation, and in return for their support the Conservative Party demanded the exclusion of Clause 43 from the Bill. This related to orphan works – copyrighted material whose owner cannot be identified or found – and was opposed by photographers, who feared it would permit their work to be used without their permission or without payment.

    Clause 18, which contained the website-blocking proposal, was removed and its content relocated to a new Clause 1 of the Bill.

    The Bill had its second reading in the Commons on Tuesday, and yesterday had both its Committee stage and third reading in the Commons, where it was passed by 189 votes to 47, largely through the votes of MPs who had not attended the debate.

    Other Government plans that were taken out of laws passing through the wash up process included the funding from the licence fee of new news consortia in the regions and its plans to impose a £6 per year phone line tax to pay for the building of a superfast broadband network.

    Minister Stephen Timms told the House of Commons that if re-elected the Government would reinstate the phone line tax after the election.

    Editor's note, 08/04/2010: The Digital Economy Bill was passed by the House of Lords at 4pm today without further changes. I argued yesterday that the way this Bill has been passed is a farce.

    http://out-law.com/page-10901

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  12. more at the New York Times
    «U.K. approves crackdown on Internet pirates

    [copyright sign] The British Parliament on Thursday approved plans to crack down on digital media piracy by authorizing the suspension of repeat offenders’ Internet connections. Following the House of Commons late Wednesday, the House of Lords on Thursday approved the bill after heavy lobbying from the music and movie industries, which say they suffer huge losses from unauthorized copying over the Internet. The law makes Britain the second large European country, after France, to approve a so-called graduated response system, under which online copyright violators face temporary suspensions of their Internet accounts if they ignore warning letters to stop. The anti-piracy plan is part of a broader bill aimed at stimulating the development of the digital economy in Britain. Many of the original proposals in the bill were dropped in the rush to complete the legislation before national elections set for May 6. These included a plan to impose a tax on telephone lines to finance the expansion of faster broadband connections to remote areas. Under the proposal, every telephone landline was to be subject to a levy of 50 pence, or 76 U.S. cents, a month. Also dropped was a plan to use public money to finance local television news reports on ITV, a commercial broadcaster.» http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/09/technology/09piracy.html

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  13. Anon 9

    The Lib Dems were the same ones who said they supported a Referendum on the EU Treaty/Constitution after Labour had promised one and then changed their minds, but when it came to the crunch to support one they caved in, just like the Conservatives did.

    So much for democracy.

    Don't expect anything but token gestures from any of them to get the vote.

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  14. 'Lord' Mandelson again eh!

    He who was a Marxist in his youth, and was kicked off the front bench twice for misconduct, yet still went on to get himself an unelected job as a Commissioner in the EU.

    As usual, jobs for the boys.

    What a joke democracy has become.

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