Digital bill is savaged by ISP bosses

Steve Dinneen
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ON the morning Gordon Brown insisted Britain’s digital economy would be the envy of the world, his digital economy bill was being savaged by business chiefs.

Web giants Google, Facebook, eBay and Yahoo have teamed up with internet service providers including BT, Virgin Media, Orange, TalkTalk to protest against an amendment to the digital economy bill they say is a disaster for businesses and users.

The amendment would force ISPs to block websites accused of illegally hosting copyrighted material without the case being heard by a judge.

It could spell trouble for firms like Youtube, which host user generated content that is difficult to moderate.

The firms yesterday penned an open letter saying the amendment was unfair and unworkable in its current form. While accepting it addressed legitimate concerns, the letter said “unintended consequences” would far outweigh the benefits of the amendment.

It was tabled by Liberal Democrat Lord Clement-Jones and passed by 165 votes to 140 in the House of Lords last week.

The protests add to growing concern about the amendment to the bill. BT boss Ian Livingston joined a chorus of dissenters who say disconnecting people accused of illegal file sharing was unfair and could persecute innocent people.

TalkTalk has gone a step further, saying it will go to “every court in the land and in Europe” to avoid sticking to it.

However, the amendment was defended yesterday by Geoff Taylor, chief executive of BPI, the industry body for the music business.

He said: “The amendment adopted by the House of Lords provides a clear and sensible mechanism to deal with illegal websites.

“Contrary to the claims in the letter, service providers would in every case be able to ensure that the decision as to whether a site should be blocked is made by the High Court.”