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Digital Economy Bill approved by House of Commons

Controversial clauses to be further examined

The controversial Digital Economy Bill, which includes measures to tackle internet piracy, has been approved by the House of Commons and will become law.

The bill, which was debated for the second time yesterday, received 189 votes and will now be passed back to the House of Lords for final approval.

The bill includes a 'three strikes' rule that will see those suspected of illegal downloading issued with letters from their ISP regarding their activities.

Copyright owners will be allowed to ask a court to order ISPs to reveal the name and addresses of illegal file-sharers so they can start legal action.

Finally, repeat offenders could also face technical measures including a temporary ban from the internet.

However, under amendments made to the bill yesterday, technical measures to tackle internet piracy won't come into force for at least a year and half after the bill is made legislation and only after clear evidence of offenders' illegal activities has been presented.

The new parliament will also be allowed to study and amend the most controversial issues of the bill. A public consultation into these issues will also take place.

A clause that could see courts ordering ISPs to block websites offering copyright infringing content, such as YouTube, is among the most controversial aspects of the bill.

However, a number of MPs criticised the way the bill has been rushed through, in a bid to ensure it becomes legislation before parliament is dissolved next week in preparation for the general election, which was been confirmed for May 6.

"There are 20,000 people who have taken the time to email their MPs about this in the last seven days alone. They are extremely upset that this bill will not have the scrutiny it deserves and requires," said Labour MP Tom Watson, referring to an online campaign that urged web users to write to their local MP in a bid to stop the bill being rushed through.

Furthermore, Labour MP Kate Hoey told the BBC: "The reality is out there, the ordinary person who has only begun, many of them, to realise the repercussions of this bill are going to feel totally let down by parliament."

However, according to Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw, hundreds of millions of pounds every year is currently haemorrhaging from the creative industries because of unlawful file-sharing.

"This is not a harmless or victimless activity. It deprives our musicians, writers and film makers and other artists of their livelihoods and if we don't do something about it, it will pose a serious threat to our creative sectors and Britain's in them."

See also: Digital Economy Bill to be debated today


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