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Lib-Dems back repeal Digital Economy Act's copyright infringement measures

Out-Law News | 21 Sep 2011 | 3:15 pm | 2 min. read

Sections of the UK's Digital Economy Act (DEA) that deal with tackling online copyright infringement should be abolished, the Liberal Democrat party has said.

Lib-Dem members approved a new policy paper on digital economy growth at the party's annual conference. The paper included a recommendation to repeal sections 3 to 18 of the DEA as the parts "lack both democratic legitimacy and practical value," it said.

"We recommend the repeal of sections 3-18 of the Digital Economy Act, which relate to copyright infringement," the Policies for Information Technology paper (21-page / 131KB PDF) said.

"Good legislation is built upon a robust evidential framework and a clear democratic mandate, neither of which were secured in this case. The ultimate result has been a deeply flawed and unworkable Act which stands only as the main emblem of a misguided, outdated and negative approach," the paper said.

The party members rejected a second option that was contained in the paper, according to a report by ZDNet. That option was to only repeal sections 17 and 18 of the DEA and have a "fundamental re-think about the desirability of site-blocking," the paper said. It also recommended that sections 9-16 of the Act not be "commenced" unless the Government shows those measures are "necessary and effective" and they receive the backing of both the Houses of Parliament in a vote.

Under the DEA Ofcom, the UK's communications regulator, must draw up new regulations on internet service providers' (ISPs) involvement in attempts to stop copyright infringement.

In a draft code of practice published in May last year, Ofcom said that internet users should receive three warning letters from their ISP if they are suspected of copyright infringements online

Details of illegal file-sharers that receive more than three letters in a year would be added to a blacklist, the draft code said. Copyright holders would have access to the list to enable them to identify infringers.

Under the draft code, ISPs could also have to suspend users' internet access if they are found to be illegally downloading copyrighted material. The finalised Code is expected to be published shortly.

Sections 17 and 18 of the DEA also allow the Culture Secretary to draw up new regulations that would see courts decide whether to force ISPs to block access to pirated copyright works. The Government recently announced that it had no plans to bring any new regulations under sections 17 and 18 into law "at this time".

The DEA was passed in April 2010 in an accelerated and truncated Parliamentary process called the 'wash up', used when a general election has been announced to rush legislation through before the break up of Parliament.

The Lib-Dem paper said the DEA's anti-piracy measures were "rushed through Parliament with insufficient consultation" and questioned whether they were workable. The Lib-Dems would "set-up an independent review of the true impact of file-sharing on the creative industries" in order to establish a sufficient "evidence base" to guide future policy proposals, the party's adopted paper said.