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Digital Bill Amendment Causes Outrage

Website creators and internet service providers (ISPs) have attacked new amendments to the Digital Economy Bill which could see web users banned from accessing hugely popular sites such as YouTube.

Last week, the House of Lords oversaw several changes to the highly controversial Bill.

Concern was raised over the existence of Clause 17 which permitted the government to change copyright legislation at will.  Such laws have now been removed but the emergence of a new amendment, allowing the government to block access to sites accused of hosting copyrighted material, has sent waves through the creative industry.

If fully agreed, the law would see high court judges issuing injunctions against websites accused of hosting a “substantial” amount of infringing material.  The changes could affect sites such as YouTube, which doesn’t scrutinise the content uploaded by users and could be hosting a large amount of copyright-infringing content.

Proposed by Liberal Democrat peer, Lord Clement-Jones, and passed by the House of Lords, supporters claim the amendment is needed to challenge widespread copyright abuse and safeguard Britain’s creative industry.

Lord Clement-Jones said "I believe this is going to 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.”

However, those within the creative industry believe the changes will have the opposite effect as companies will see declines in advertising if users are denied access and the threat of action will severely damage brand reputations.

"We are faced with an appalling sight," said Jim Killock Executive Director of the Open Rights Group.

“This is exactly how libel law works today; suppressing free speech by the unwarranted threat of legal action.  The expense and the threat are enough to create a 'chilling effect'."

ISPs have also reacted strongly to the news, believing that the amendments have been rushed through to appease large-scale copyright owners.

“We’ve been supportive of peers’ excellent scrutiny of the bill to date,” added Nicholas Lansman, Secretary-General of the Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA).

“However, our members are extremely concerned that the full implications of the amendment haven’t been understood and that the reasoning behind it is wholly misguided.”

The Digital Economy Bill is scheduled for introduction later this year – should be interesting…