Government revamps Digital Economy Bill

The Government has reintroduced legislation that will give courts the power to block websites hosting copyrighted material.

Government revamps Digital Economy Bill

Clause 17 of the Digital Economy Bill originally granted powers to the Secretary of State to amend copyright law without consulting Parliament. This proved extremely unpopular with the public and technology sector and was defeated in the House of Lords by Lib Dem and Conservative peers.

Instead, they introduced a new amendment that empowered the courts to force ISPs to block websites that were infringing on copyrighted material. The revised amendment failed to win a consensus in the Lords and was set aside to be dealt with in the Commons.

What this is basically doing is allowing us to future proof the bill

The Government’s new proposal – now called clause 18 – will again grant courts the power to decide whether a site should be blocked. Before an injunction is granted, however, the courts will have to decide whether sufficient evidence exists that the site infringes on copyright and whether an injunction breaches the site’s freedom of speech.

Lord Mandelson added that ISPs would not have to pay court costs in any arising cases.

“Future-proofing”

The clause also allows the Secretary of State to propose regulations in Parliament to combat new methods of copyright infringement. These would have to be debated and voted on in both Houses before coming into law.

“What this is basically doing is allowing us to future-proof the bill,” a spokesman for the Department of Business, Innovation & Skills said. “There are already measures to deal with file-sharing and this is about dealing with future threats.”

The new clause will be introduced for the Digital Economy Bill’s second reading in the House on 6 April.

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