UK is one step closer to blocking access to Internet
Article corrected on 31.03.2010
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Deutsch: GB macht einen Schritt auf die Unterbindung von Internetzugängen zu
The most controversial Digital Economy Bill has advanced one more step having been passed by the British House of Lords on 15 March 2010. The bill allows for the "temporary suspension" of Internet connections for those allegdly continuing "substantial" copyright infringement after warnings from their ISPs.
While usually the creation of a Parliament Act needs a rather long time, this particular legislation might have a brief journey as Lord Mandelson, secretary of state for business, is rushing its next reading on 6 April. By getting its next reading in the Commons before the general election likely to be held on 6 May, the bill becomes eligible for so-called "wash-up" procedure which implies that a bill that has run out of proper parliamentary time may be hurried and the usual debating process may be by-passed through a series of negotiations to turn proposals into law before the Parliament dissolves.
The bill was passed by the House of Lords with the amendments proposed earlier this month by the Liberal Democrats rejecting the initial Clause 17. However, the modification is also controversial giving High Court judges the power to force ISPs to block websites with a "substantial" amount of copyrighted material, which might affect a large number of video sharing sites.
A worrying fact is that the original Liberal Democrat amendment to Clause 17 was almost identical to the one suggested by the British Phonographic Industry, as it was underlined by Monica Horten on 3 March 2010.
Clement-Jones one of the two peers having tabled the amendment told the Guardian that it was not unusual for peers to table amendments from lobby groups if they believed they had merit. What the peer failed to admit before the debates was that he was a partner in DLA Piper law firm which had closely worked with content industry.
"There is a massive groundswell of opposition to extreme laws being rammed through Parliament without debate," said Jim Killock, executive director of the EDRi-member Open Rights Group who added : "People are angry with lobbyists writing our laws and with disconnection being proposed as a punishment. MPs need to give this Bill the democratic scrutiny it deserves."
Killock called "for massive campaign of citizens to demand that their MPs debate this dangerous bill," as Lord Mandelson was "preparing to rush through this draconian legislation without democratic debate".
A campaign initiated by 38 degrees group and the Open Rights Group has led to 10 000 UK citizens having written, in less than three days, to MPs to stop the rushing of the bill and to demand a debate on the Digital Economy Bill.
Also, a group of public figures including artists, activists, campaigners, as well as politicians addressed a letter to the Government asking it to stop rushing the draft, emphasizing the fact that a bill which "threatens to severely infringe fundamental human rights" and introduces website blocking measures impeding free speech must be fully scrutinised by the Parliament before becoming a law. "Democracy and accountability will be sidestepped if this bill is rushed through and amended without debate during the so-called 'wash-up' process. The thousands of people we know to be contacting their MPs with concerns will find their faith in politicians even further undermined," says the letter.
Monica Horten - UK Liberal Democrats rise against Net blocking (10.03.2010)
Monica Horten - LibDems propose web blocking on say-so of music industry (3.03.2010)
Don't rush through extreme web laws
10,000 letters sent to MPs to demand disconnection debate (19.03.2010)
Digital economy bill: what you need to know (22.03.2010)
Rush to pass digital bill will 'sidestep democracy' (19.03.2010)
Digital economy bill: peer defends not mentioning law firm's web work
Lords pass controversial internet piracy bill (16.03.2010)
EDRI-gram: UK Government to decide on the Internet disconnections and web