Stop Digital Economy Bill "wash-up"

Glyn Wintle has kindly written a guest blog post on today’s debate in the House of Commons on the Digital Economy Bill.

Wintle is a IT Contractor who has been following the Digital Economy Bill since the earliest stages. He gives talks at conferences on behalf of the Open Rights Group. He is tweeting on the Bill’s second reading debate today.

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“The government would have you believe that the Digital Economy Bill, which is today in front of Parliament, will help to ensure that the UK is at the leading edge of the global digital economy. 

“Unfortunately, the reality is that measures it introduces will impede many businesses and ordinary users that make use of the Internet, to the extent that a more appropriate name would  be the Analogue Economy Bill.


“One of the most contentious features of the bill will require yourISP to disconnect you from the Internet if you’re accused of downloadingcopyrighted material, unless you choose to take on the expense ofappealing against the accusation and are able to prove that you didn’tdo the thing you didn’t do.

“Even businesses, schools andlibraries will be vulnerable to this and could see their Internet cutoff if an accusation is made that their connection has been used toinfringe copyright – spelling the death of open WiFi for sure. 

“Otherequally controversial measures include forcing ISPs to block websitesand the government giving itself the power to take over the Internetdomain registries.

“The next – and probably the last – debate  onthis Bill is now just hours away, scheduled for today, Tuesday 6thApril.

Wash-up –  what is that?

“When an electionis called, negotiations take place between the main parties to decidewhich bills will be pushed through in the limited time available beforeParliament is dissolved. 

“This exceptional process, where normalrules of time for debate are suspended, is known as “wash-up”.

“Inwash-up, which former independent MP and BBC journalist Martin Bell hascharacterised as “a secretive process, the modern equivalent of thesmoke-filled room”, bills are waved through without line-by-lineParliamentary scrutiny, in a matter of hours not days.

“Because ofthe way this Bill has been timed, huge chunks of the bill might notreceive any scrutiny at all in the House of Commons.

“Passing aBill that has such a significant impact on aspects of life that so manyof us take for granted (burden of proof, freedom of speech, quick andeasy access to information and services) without even talking it overwould be a massive – and unnecessary – mistake.

“Wash-up is anexpedited process intended for non-controversial material; contentiousbills can be deferred and raised again in the next Parliament, to allowfor full and proper scrutiny.

“This Bill is clearlycontroversial: 35,180 people have signed a petition on the Number 10website; there was a near unanimous emergency vote against it at arecent Lib Dem party conference; Liberty, Consumer Focus, the Federationof Small Businesses, Facebook, Google, eBay, the British  HospitalityAssociation, the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, TalkTalk, BT,Orange, Virgin, the Internet Services Providers Association and manyothers have all expressed issues with it.

“Even if you were notable to reach your MP before today’s s debate, it’s still important thatyou get in touch with them as soon as possible to ask them to opposethe Bill being passed through wash-up. 

“The easiest way to writeto your MP is via http://www.writetothem.com. 

“Input yourpostcode and they’ll tell you who your local MP is and submit yourmessage.

“Please try to personalise it as standard letters have far lessimpact on MPs.  These are general tips on writing to MPs.

“The latestbriefing from the Open Rights Group.

“This is a legal analysis ofthe newest amendments.

“This is a more detailed review of the clauses by the Open Rights Group.

“The Times – MI5 comes out against cutting off internet pirates.

“Latest draft of the Digital Economy Bill.”

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