UK government passes law before parliament is dissolved
The UK government has passed the controversial Digital Economy Bill, following its third reading in the House Of Commons.
It was passed by 189 votes to 47, reports the Telegraph.
The bill – which seeks to control online piracy and the punishments given out by internet service providers (ISPs) – has been passed extra quickly due to it being part of a so-called ‘wash-up’ process by the government, whereby as many unresolved bills as possible are finalised before parliament is dissolved for the general election campaign to officially begin on April 12.
As a result of the speedy process, the Digital Economy Bill was discussed for just two hours by MPs in its final reading, before being passed.
Under Clause 10 of the bill, the government can direct OFCOM, the independent regulator for the UK’s communication industries, to “take a technical measure against some or all relevant subscribers to [an ISP’s] service for the purpose of preventing or reducing infringement of copyright by means of the internet”. According to the bill, “technical measures” would in the most serious cases see ISP‘s forced to suspend their customers internet accounts if they are found to repeatedly download copyrighted content.
Another contentious part of the bill – Clause 18 – intends to give the high court powers to force ISP‘s to block access to online sites, though this was withdrawn from the final bill. However, the government replaced it with a similar amendment, which will allow the Secretary of State for Business to block any site 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”.
Despite over 20,000 people writing to their MPs in opposition to the bill in the last seven days, the Parliamentary debate has been criticised for being under capacity in terms of the turnout earlier in the week.