A Lib Dem MP is leading the charge to get parts of the Digital Economy Act scrapped.
Julian Huppert said it was wrong to rush the controversial Act through Parliament before the last election and that the proposed measures warrant more discussion.
He told TechEye today that one of the parts he objected to most concerned the powers to block or disconnect broadband users accused of file-sharing.
Huppert said that if these proposals could not be changed through discussion then this section of the Act should be repealed.
The new MP for Cambridge said: “Most of the Act is fine, I just don’t agree with every bit of it – and with this section in particular. It is collective punishment. It shouldn’t identify someone from their IP address. If this section can’t be changed, and made to work, then we shouldn’t have it. It should be scrapped.”
Huppert, who tabled an early day motion entitled Effects of Digital Economy Act 2010 On Use of The Internet shortly after the last general election, has been gathering support from other MPs for the cause. And this group has been organising ways to make vital changes to the Act.
According to Huppert, the key is to have more discussion between everyone affected, including consumers, ISPs and those who hold the rights to copyright.
The MP, who has a PhD in biological chemistry, said part of the problem stemmed from the Act being rushed through “in the dying days” of the last parliament.
MPs, who would normally try to learn a bit about a subject before voting on it, had other things on their minds – namely, getting re-elected. And so the Act had too short a debate in the Commons in the middle of an election meaning many MPs still don’t really understand the tech issues.
“These are serious issues,” said Huppert. “The bill put too much into the regulations. Having discussion will be extremely useful. I’d like to get the law changed.”
He described the implications for public wi-fi use, such as in libraries, “very worrying”.
According to Huppert, it is important to protect copyright, but it is also important to have a system that works.
Huppert is in a number of discussions about the Act, including talking to Ofcom. And the Act still has to go back to Parliament for approval – and this includes there having to be a vote before the powers can come into operation.
No date has been scheduled for this yet but the group of MPs are determined to make their case against the sections of the Act they object to.
Huppert has also been looking at the Freedom Bill to see if this could help.
In the statement, it called on opponents of the Act to give the legislation time to “bed in and demonstrate it can work”.
John Lovelock, chief executive officer from FAST, said: “We have long struggled with rampant internet piracy, together with other intellectual property rights holders, and the debate did appear to have taken a step forward when this Act was passed earlier in the year.
“But what we are now seeing is a rear guard action by some.” He included in this “rear guard action” the Judicial Review and moves by MPs.
Lovelock added: “The provisions of the Act must be allowed to have a chance to work for benefits to be seen.” When TechEye contacted FAST to ask if it thought the Act could benefit from a bit more scrutiny,
Julian Hobbins from FAST said via a spokesperson that the organisation anticipated “engaging with DEAAPPG” – an all party parliamentary group that is looking at the Act – this Autumn.
Lovelock could not be directly reached for his comment.
And when asked if there were any parts of the Act in particular which might benefit from more discussion, the brief answer from Hobbins was: “See if it will work first.”
And finally, was there a chance that the Act may be repealed? “Ditto answer in 1. above” (referring to the comment about “engaging with DEAAPPG”).
EFFECTS OF DIGITAL ECONOMY ACT 2010 ON USE OF THE INTERNET
“That this House believes that sections nine to 18 of the Digital Economy Act 2010 should not have been rushed through in the dying days of the last Parliament; further believes that these sections have large repercussions for consumers, civil liberties, freedom of information and access to the internet; and calls on the Government to introduce early legislation to repeal those provisions.”