Latest Digital Economy amendment sticks to lobbyist proposal

A new controversial amendment to the Digital Economy Bill appears to have been taken straight from a music industry lobby group.

Pirate websites

A leaked document from the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) has shown the latest controversial amendment in the Digital Economy Bill is almost identical to its lobbying proposal.

Last week saw Clause 17 where the Government could change copyright law through statutory instrument rather than the full parliamentary process dropped from the bill, only to be replaced by another clause proposing to block access to websites containing pirated material.

However, it seems from the BPI's document, brought to our attention by the Open Rights Group, that the amendment was less an idea of Liberal Democrat and Conservative peers but instead almost word for word the BPI's proposal that it sent to Government back in January.

A blog post from Jim Killock, director of the Open Rights Group, has dammed the process of this amendment as "very wrong."

He wrote: "Now, amendments often come from lobby and campaign groups, including us, not least because it's the easiest way for them to show parliamentarians what they want."

He added: "But the fact that twice, with the original copyright by diktat proposal, and then the web blocking proposal, the BPI essentially got to write what they wanted and get it proposed more or less wholesale as law, in such a tremendously sensitive area and in such a one-sided manner, shows something is very wrong with the way this debate is being conducted."

The only difference between the BPI document and the amendment proposal was the additional questions around national security by Lord Clement-Jones, the Lib Dem peer who put the proposal to the house on 3 March.

However, an official statement from BPI today said that nothing unusual had gone on.

The statement said: "The BPI has long maintained that the Digital Economy Bill should make provision for non P2P online copyright infringement. We made a proposal on this and as is quite common used statutory language to convey our point. This is something that all sides in the digital economy debate do."

"Although agreeing with us on the need for action, the Government took a different approach to the one we proposed. However, the Opposition parties thought it was a sensible framework for dealing with illegal websites. They made changes to our proposal which was then tabled by them, debated fully in the House of Lords, before being agreed and made part of the Bill."

Earlier this week a number of executives from leading tech firms wrote a letter to Government expressing their concern about the amendment as affecting freedom of speech in the UK and putting people off from doing online business on our shores.

The BPI's chief executive Geoff Taylor, defended the amendment against this letter but did not admit his organisation had been at the roots of its beginnings.

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