Wednesday 7 April 2010

Last Rites for the Digital Economy Bill

This morning, the list of amendments to the Digital Economy Bill to be debated today was published here. The "committee" debate will take place today, with third reading tomorrow to allow the Bill to pass into law before Parliament is dissolved on Monday in advance of the forthcoming election.
As regards "orphan works", the Government has admitted defeat in the face of a campaign by photographers - an amendment in the name of Ben Bradwhaw (pictured right) the Secretary of State proposes the deletion of the whole of Clause 43 - with the Tories opposing the provisions, they stand no chance of becoming law in the "wash-up" process. This will come as a huge disappointment to many who saw the provisions as providing an opportunity to release swathes of material that is locked away in archives because it is not possible economically to clear the underlying rights.
The Government has also dropped clauses 1 (giving specific new powers to Ofcom) and 29 (dealing with the new funding mechanism for regional news on ITV).
It pays to read the whole document - although the existing "clause 18" is also to be deleted, the concept embodied by that clause, the power to introduce "site blocking" as an anti-piracy measure, lives on (as a new clause at the very end of the list of amendments) despite the controversy it has created - the Secretary of State will have powers (subject to jumping through various hoops - including a "super-affirmative" process in the Houses of Parliament) to introduce "the granting by a court of a blocking injunction in respect of a location on the internet which the court is satisfied has been, is being or is likely to be used for or in connection with an activity that infringes copyright."

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