|FROM ||Ruben Safir
|SUBJECT ||Subject: [NYLXS - HANGOUT] Copyright Wars in Europe
| Pirate bill could 'breach rights'
An influential group of MPs and peers has said the government's approach
to illegal file-sharing could breach the rights of internet users.
The Joint Select Committee on Human Rights said the government's Digital
Economy Bill needed clarification.
It said that technical measures - which include cutting off persistent
pirates - were not "sufficiently specified".
In addition, it said that it was concerned that the Bill could create
"The internet is constantly creating new challenges for policy-makers
but that cannot justify ill-defined or sweeping legislative responses,
especially when there is the possibility of restricting freedom of
expression or the privacy of individual users," said Andrew Dismore MP
and chair of the Committee.
A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills
(BIS), which oversees the Digital Economy Bill, said that government had
"always been clear that [its] proposals to deal with unlawful
file-sharing should not contravene human rights".
The Select Committee only examined the parts of the Bill that focus on
plans to tackle illegal file-sharing as well as a controversial
amendment to copyright law.
"The concern we have with this Bill is that it lacks detail," said Mr
Dismore. "It has been difficult, even in the narrow area we have
focussed on, to get a clear picture of the scope and impact of the
The Digital Economy Bill was outlined in the Queen's speech in November
One of the most hotly-debated elements is the so-called "three strikes
rule" that would give regulator Ofcom new powers to disconnect or slow
down the connections of persistent net pirates.
The Committee said it had concerns about "technical measures" like these
and how they would be applied.
DIGITAL ECONOMY BILL
# Legal framework for tackling copyright infringement via education and
# technical measures
# Ofcom given powers to appoint and fund independently funded news
# New duties for Ofcom to assess the UK's communications infrastructure
# every two years
# Modernising spectrum to increase investment in mobile broadband
# Framework for the move to digital radio switchover by 2015
# Updating Channel 4 functions to encompass public service content, on
# TV and online
# Age ratings compulsory for all boxed video games aimed at those over
# 12 years
For example, the government has not specified whether a whole household
could be cut off if only one member of a family was identified as a
The committee said that measures such as this have "the potential to
breach internet users' rights" and had not been "sufficiently specified
to allow for an assessment of proportionality".
Jim Killock of the Open Rights Group, which has campaigned against the
measures, said that disconnecting alleged file-sharers was "draconian
and unpredictably damaging".
A spokesperson for BIS said: "slowing down or suspending peoples
broadband would only be invoked following several clear warnings".
Any technical measures would require "secondary legislation", he added.
"There will be no technical measures imposed at all if the initial
measures taken are as successful as we expect."
The Committee also examined Clause 17 of the bill, which would give the
government the power to amend the copyright law without passing further
The clause has proved controversial. In late 2009, a consortium of web
companies including Facebook, Google, Yahoo and eBay wrote to the
business secretary Peter Mandelson objecting to the clause.
The web firms urged MPs to remove the clause, which they said could give
government "unprecedented and sweeping powers" to amend copyright laws.
The Select Committee said that it had been told that changes would be
made to the clause to ensure that any amendments to copyright law would
be "better scrutinised by Parliament".
"Despite this the Committee remains concerned that Clause 17 remains
overly broad and that parliamentary scrutiny may remain inadequate," it
The BIS spokesperson said that government had already tabled "a series
of amendments which aim to clarify the breadth and scope of clause 17".
The Digital Economy bill is currently being scrutinised by the House of
It was dealt a blow recently when Sion Simon, one of the MPs charged
with pushing it through parliament, announced he was standing down.
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2010/02/05 17:49:45 GMT
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