UK is one step closer to blocking access to Internet

By EDRi · March 24, 2010

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

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

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
blocking (10.03.2010)