Letter to the FT (Financial Times) – Amendment 120A Digital Economy Bill

Dear Sirs,
We regret that the House of Lords last week adopted amendment 120A to the Digital Economy Bill. This amendment not only significantly changes the injunctions procedure in the UK but will lead to an increase in Internet service providers blocking websites accused of illegally hosting copyrighted material without cases even reaching a judge. The amendment seeks to address the legitimate concerns of rights-holders but would have unintended consequences which far outweigh any benefits it could bring.
Endorsing a policy that would encourage the blocking of websites by UK broadband providers or other Internet companies is a very serious step for the UK to take. There are myriad legal, technical and practical issues to reconcile before this can be considered a proportionate and necessary public policy option.  In some cases, these may never be reconciled. These issues have not even been considered in this case.
The Lords have been thoughtful in their consideration of the Bill to date.  It is therefore bitterly disappointing that the House has allowed an amendment with obvious shortcomings to proceed without challenging its proponents to consider and address the full consequences.  Put simply, blocking access as envisaged by this clause would both widely disrupt the Internet in the UK and elsewhere, threatening 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.
We are particularly concerned that a measure of this kind as a general purpose policy could have an adverse impact on the reputation of the UK as a place to do online business and conflict with the broader objectives of Digital Britain.  This debate has created a tension between specific interest groups and the bigger prize of promoting a policy framework that supports our digital economy and appropriately balances rights and responsibilities.  All parties should take steps to safeguard this prize and place it at the heart of public policy in this area.
Yours sincerely,
Richard Allan, Director of Policy EU, Facebook
Neil Berkett, Chief Executive, Virgin Media
Matt Brittin, Managing Director, Google UK and Ireland
Charles Dunstone, Chairman, Talk Talk Group
Jessica Hendrie-Liaño, Chair, Internet Services Providers Association (ISPA)
Jill Johnstone, International Director, Consumer Focus
Jim Killock, Executive Director, Open Rights Group
Mark Lewis, Managing Director, eBay UK Ltd
Ian Livingstone, Chief Executive, BT Group
Professor Sarah Oates, University of Glasgow
Dr Jenny Pickerill, University of Leicester
Mark Rabe, Managing Director, Yahoo! UK and Ireland
Dr Paul Reilly, University of Leicester
Jess Search, Founder, Shooting People independent film makers
Professor Ian Walden, Queen Mary, University of London
Tom Watson MP

18 comments ↓

#1 Manoj Ranaweera on 03.10.10 at 9:17 am

Thanks Tom for standing up for common sense!

#2 Bookmarks for March 10th through March 11th — arghh.net on 03.10.10 at 6:17 pm

[...] Digital Economy Bill | Tom Watson MP – Letter in today's FT on Clause 120A of the Digital Economy Bill: from ISPs, Facebook, ORG, Google & many others #debill [...]

#3 Martin on 03.12.10 at 8:52 am

If it was common sense, we’d all have it. Rare sense is much more useful, but a heck of a lot more dangerous.

#4 RobT on 03.14.10 at 7:33 pm

I dont see a letter to the FT causing Mandleson to fret over his boat trips.

Seriously, this is another example of ‘New’ Labour being completely in thrall to big business.

#5 Stop Disconnection Sheffield | Richard's Kingdom on 03.17.10 at 12:55 pm

[...] Bill could allow the Government to disconnect you from the Internet (without trial), facilitate censorship of the Internet, and could precipitate the death of open Wi-Fi and public Internet access [...]

#6 Digital Economy Bill: the final instalment | Left Foot Forward on 03.17.10 at 4:30 pm

[...] support for the bill – with the notable exception of former minister for digital engagement Tom Watson and Derek Wyatt – Clement Davies’s support and obvious connections to the media [...]

#7 RobT on 03.17.10 at 11:11 pm

I see even Brendan Barber is today being swept away by the ludicrous claims being perpetuated by ‘independent research’.

The poll tax was a useless law. People should fight this even if its imposed on us.

#8 Digital Economy Bill – Open Letter to My MP « mydogminton on 03.18.10 at 2:55 pm

[...] Open letter to Financial Times from Google, Facebook, Virgin Media, Talk Talk, eBay, BT, Yahoo, and Tom Watson MP [...]

#9 Krister on 03.21.10 at 3:23 pm

Thanks from Sweden to all of you in UK who stands up for democracy and against the movie and music industry who clearly wants to kill the freedom of speach and all other values of importance to democracy!!

#10 RobT on 03.21.10 at 5:01 pm

Byers, Hewitt, Mandleson…

Five grand, three thousand or a trip on someones boat? It’s all the same, but no less galling that Labour dances to the pipers tune.

I cant stand the thought of the Tories getting in, but Labour needs reminding of its supposed core values.

#11 Alan Gallery on 03.29.10 at 11:28 am

Buried in DEB is a section that will have a significant impact on businesses that have web sites. Section 43 (was 42) relates to Orphan works. When the act comes into power any image on a website that cannot be traced back to the copyright holder is an Orphan Work. This means that:
a/ The images must be removed, or
b/ The copyright holder must be traced and a licence to use the image obtained.
c/ In the event that the copyright holder cannot be traced after a diligent search the image must be registered with a Licensing Body and a Market Rate fee paid possibly with an additional amount for the Licensing Body and a cut for the government.

There are significant penalties for non-compliance.

#12 pat on 04.06.10 at 11:14 pm

you are the reason i vote labour.

#13 ian h on 04.08.10 at 2:20 pm

all credit for standing up against a ridiculously ill-conceived and hastily rushed Geffen-Mandelson act. I only wish my own MP ( the so-called minister of Justice) had bothered to read and digest my email last month. If he had, he may well have joined you and the 46 others!

#14 Digital Economy Bill set to pass into UK law: watch out, hapless home owners! on 04.08.10 at 3:01 pm

[...] Members of the UK Parliament should be discussing a law that they really have no clue about. As Tom Watson, Labour MP and the only out-spoken opposer of the new law, says: "The amendment seeks to address [...]

#15 Digital Economy Bill set to pass into UK law: watch out, hapless home owners! | theintechnology on 04.08.10 at 3:09 pm

[...] Members of the UK Parliament should be discussing a law that they really have no clue about. As Tom Watson, Labour MP and the only out-spoken opposer of the new law, says: “The amendment seeks to [...]

#16 Digital Economy Bill set to pass into UK law: watch out, hapless home owners! « Gus on 04.08.10 at 3:49 pm

[...] Members of the UK Parliament should be discussing a law that they really have no clue about. As Tom Watson, Labour MP and the only out-spoken opposer of the new law, says: "The amendment seeks to address [...]

#17 NET FOCUS : Digital Economy Bill set to pass into UK law, watch out!! « Mint Condition! on 04.09.10 at 4:06 pm

[...] Members of the UK Parliament should be discussing a law that they really have no clue about. As Tom Watson, Labour MP and the only out-spoken opposer of the new law, says: “The amendment seeks to [...]

#18 Followup: UK Lords, I salute you - Quiet Technologies Blog on 04.12.10 at 9:47 pm

[...] have to agree. On all accounts. I too read the letter sent to the Financial Times signed by some heavyweights of the industry. And its clear this type of opposition would not be met [...]

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