Online giants air Digital Economy Bill grievances

The Digital Economy Bill is facing another setback, with major players Orange, Virgin Media, Google, Facebook, Yahoo and eBay signing an open letter to the Financial Times, reports The Next Web.

The letter, which can be read in full here, claims that the Digital Economy Bill amendment 120A will have “unintended consequences that far outweigh any benefits it could bring.” Parliament certainly seems keen to push through with the controversial amendment, having a majority approval in Westminster. But digital rights activists and online communities are critical, saying that the bill will infringe on rights and is simply not necessary. The idea is to protect the creative industries by forcing ISPs to block websites that break copyright laws.

While the letter agrees that the bill is well meaning and protection of copyright needs to be looked at, the amendment would “widely disrupt the internet in the UK and elsewhere and threaten freedom of speech and the open internet, without reducing copyright infringement as intended.”

“We are particularly concerned that a measure of this kind as a general purpose policy could have an adverse impact on the reputation of the UK as a place do do online business and conflict with the broader objectives of Digital Britain,” Tom Alexander, Chief Executive at Orange continues.”

The open letter has 18 letters from influential bigwigs, with backing from the University of Leicester and Queen Mary London. Talk Talk, BT, Consumer Focus, the Open Rights Group and Tom Watson MP have all signed.

Whether this will have an effect on the bill amendments remains to be seen. The House of Lords passed the amendment just last week, so now it will go to the Commons, where it has support from the majority of MPs. Quoted in The Telegraph, Lib Dem spokesman for Culture, Media and Sport Lord Clement-Jones told peers that the amendment will “send a powerful message to our creative industries that we value what they do, that we want to protect what they do, that we do not believe in censoring the internet but we are responding to genuine concerns.”

While this may keep the creative industries happy for a short time, we think helping one industry at its behest while damaging another, that is supposedly high on the agenda of government, may not be the best way to go about it.