An amendment to the UK’s Digital Economy Bill that could force ISPs to block access to copyright-infringing websites has been slammed by the heads of the four largest UK ISPs, along with Google, Facebook, eBay and Yahoo.
The joint letter to the Financial Times claims that:
“the amendment seeks to address the legitimate concerns of rights-holders but would have unintended consequences that far outweigh any benefits it could bring”.
The letter doesn’t pull its punches:
“Blocking access as envisaged by this clause would both widely disrupt the internet in the UK and elsewhere and threaten freedom of speech and the open internet, without reducing copyright infringement as intended. To rush through such a controversial proposal at the tail end of a parliament, without any kind of consultation with consumers or industry, is very poor law-making.”
This is the very real issue with the Digital Economy Bill. Despite a long and frankly tortuous consultation process, since the bill got to its latest House of Lords reading, it’s been the subject of a barrage of amendments from all angles – some of which have never been discussed as part of the consultation.
Standing outside the on-going needling between rights owners and ISPs / tech firms, it’s hard not to wonder whether this is any way to put together such an important piece of legislation, which is supposed to be tackling online piracy while also fostering innovative new business models for digital media. And that’s without even mentioning the fact that the whole thing is having to be hurried through before the UK’s General Election – currently expected to take place in May.