Lord Clement-Jones and Lord Razzal introduced a controversial clause in the already controversial Digital Economy Bill earlier this month, which Google, Facebook, BT, among many others, have claimed will “threaten freedom of speech and open internet” in the UK.
Clause 18 (amendment 120A), ostensibly to introduce judicial oversight to the legislation, allows copyright holders to demand ISPs block web sites which may contain copyrighted material. Sites like Youtube and Wikileaks come to mind.
Jim Killock, of the Open Rights Group (ORG), notes this will curb freedom of expression in the same way British libel law currently does: “Individuals and small businesses would be open to massive ‘copyright attacks’ that could shut them <> down, just by the threat of action.”
No wonder: the ORG revealed last week that clause 18 was copied almost word for word from the BPI’s draft!
Fears are now, because of the coming general election, the bill will be passed through the “wash up” procedure, where the government and opposition make deals behind closed doors, bypassing parliamentary debate.
BPI lobbyist, and prospective MP, Richard Mollet, said in a leaked memo that if the parliament does its job and forces a debate the bill may not have time to be passed before the general election. Despite this, Richard notes MPs will likely have “minimum input” from this point on.
The ORG and 38 Degrees are urging citizens to lobby their MPs on this, and the “three strikes” disconnection policy which threatens to deny citizens the use of what is increasingly a vital service for work, education and social life: the internet. Over 10,000 have already taken up the call
In a letter to the Guardian on 19 March, Jo Glanville of Index on Censorship and others demanded that the bill be scrapped or properly debated in parliament.