Digital Economy Bill goes to final Lords debate

The Digital Economy Bill will be debated today by the Lords, who will decide if it becomes law, after being controversially rushed through in a vote in the House of Commons.

The bill passed through the Commons yesterday with a majority of 142 votes. The vote followed condemnation a day earlier, when it made a major advance in a debate attended by under 40 MPs . Campaigners for and against the bill had spent thousands of pounds attempting to catch the attention of politicians.

Under the bill, users could be cut off if they access pirated content, and websites hosting that content could also be blocked. Proponents say these steps would protect content creators - but opponents, who presented a petition to parliament with thousands of signatures, see the bill as threatening civil liberties.

Tom Watson, a former minister, told the BBC it would be a “disaster” if the bill goes through in its current form. He criticised the order for internet service providers to suspend the accounts of those accessing pirated material, saying it would end up cutting off other people who live in the same building as offenders.

The move to push though the bill in a pre-election 'wash-up' was branded by Labour MP Kate Hoey, speaking to the BBC, as a “stitch up”. The bill received the reluctant support of the Conservatives, after amendments were made including the removal of the 50 pence broadband tax. Observers have said this tax would likely be reintroduced if Labour wins the election on 6 May.

Industry insiders said it was highly probable that the Lords would pass the bill into law – though some sections may attract significant debate.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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