Digital Economy Bill passed by Commons

The Digital Economy Bill was passed by the House of Commons last night despite widespread criticism that it has been rushed through Parliament with little debate.

The bill, which includes allowing ISPs to take “technical measures” against persistent file sharers, was passed by 189 votes to 47, although key ministers including Labour’s Tom Watson voted against it.

Changes made to the bill since Christmas include the axing of a clause which would allow orphan works – where the copyright holder can’t be found or is unidentifiable – to be used commercially. This could have included photos on Flickr.

Other changes include an amendment allowing the blocking of sites that could infringe copyright. It was suggested within the Commons this could apply to sites such as Wikileaks.

The controversial 50p levy on phone lines to fund the improvement of national broadband speeds had been transferred to a Finance Bill, but that was also dropped last night in a seperate vote.

The Digital Economy Bill, and the preceding Digital Britain report from which it derived, have been highly controversial, with critics complaining the bill could restrict the UK’s digital economy rather than boost it.

The past week has seen an increase in online activity opposing the bill, including campaign sites such as urging people to voice their criticism.

The bill is now expected to be made law before Parliament’s dissolution on 12 April. However, the Conservatives have already said they will review any bills fast-tracked ahead of the General Election.

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