Digital Bill attracts a wave of criticism

Steve Dinneen
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LABOUR and the Tories were both on the back foot yesterday as a wave of criticism overshadowed the passing of the Digital Economy Bill.

The controversial bill passed its third reading in the House of Commons, making it a formality that it will be passed into law.

But businesses and the public slammed the decision, suggesting the legislation had been rushed through and is both draconian and unworkable.

Business secretary Lord Mandelson, who pushed for some of the tougher aspects of the legislation, came in for a lot of the fiercest criticism.

The bill included anti-piracy laws that could target individual file-sharers but dropped a clause that could force Internet Service Providers to block websites with pirated material.

TalkTalk director of strategy Andrew Heaney, who spearheaded the campaign against the bill, said the “ability of big music and film companies to influence government” has been “appalling.” He vowed to continue to fight the bill in the courts.

A Labour spokesman said: “We make no apology for protecting the intellectual property rights of our country’s writers, artists, musicians and film-makers.

“Illegal file-sharing is costing our creative industries and talent hundreds of millions a year. If we do nothing, it will be a blow to jobs and economic growth – and could put at risk the British-made films, games and music that people enjoy.”

A Conservative spokesman said the party was largely happy with the bill and will not seek to change it should it gain power in the election.

Over 20,000 voters wrote to their local politicians voicing concerns over the bid but only five per cent of MPs turned up to debate the issue.

The bribery bill and the Financial Services Bill were also passed.