UK Digital Economy Bill Clears Third Reading

The hugely controversial Digital Economy Bill has cleared the third reading. As a result, it has cleared the House of Lords and will move on to the final stage.

We’ve been following the UK Digital Economy Bill lately. We picked up the story as the bill cleared the Report Stage late last month. In the process we looked into what some of the provisions in the bill will mean.

One of the highly controversial aspects of the bill is that it would raise the penalties for non-commercial online copyright infringement to 10 years in prison. This part of the bill has already been raised by the Open Rights Group who are actively running a letter writing campaign.

While this controversial aspect has been raised a lot outside government, it seems to be falling on deaf ears inside the halls of government. As we previously noted, these elements never got a mention during some of the debates of the bill.

Now comes word that the bill has cleared the third and final reading in the House of Lords. As a result, the bill will now move back to the House of Commons where amendments will be considered. This is the final step before the bill can receive royal assent. No date has been set on when amendments from the house of Lords will be considered, but it is very close to becoming law now.

We took a look at the Hansard to see if the filesharing provisions even got a mention in the recent round of debates. Unfortunately, there are only a few passing mentions about copyright – non of which pertain to the extreme punishments being set for non-commercial copyright infringement.

Another controversial element in the bill is the high level requirement for online businesses operating in the UK. If a business deals with explicit material, a new bar will be set to prove a user is of a certain age. Critics of the bill suggest that this will hit small businesses hard while only allowing the larger players to remain up and running. Still, even that element doesn’t seem to be deterring lawmakers as they push ahead with this bill.

While it is unclear when this bill will reach the last stage, what is known is that British citizens are running out of time to have their voices heard on the matter. This is assuming they haven’t voiced their concerns about the bill already. The letter writing campaign for the Open Rights Group is still online for those who still haven’t participated.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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