Gregory Campbell MP

Communications Data Bill

Digital Economy Act

Gregory Campbell replied to a constituent with this email on the Digital Economy Act:

Thank you for your letter via e-mail regarding the Digital Economy Bill and your concerns on proposals about internet access.

It would appear the most controversial measures in the Bill have been those in relation to online infringement of copyright. Internet service providers would have to cooperate with copyright owners to help curb illegal sharing or downloading of material, initially using a system of notification letters to users associated with repeated infringement. Copyright owners would be able to apply to a court to identify individuals suspected of more serious breaches thus aiding legal action using the current enforcement system. If these changes prove ineffective at reducing online piracy, the Bill would allow for the introduction of technical measures, including internet disconnection, to be used as a last resort against the most serious offenders. I understand the Government's intention is that this will only apply for serious infringers breaching copyright on multiple occasions not on a single occasion which you indicate in your letter.

The online copyright provisions of the Bill were significantly amended during both committee stage and report stage in the House of Lords. Against government wishes, the report stage notably saw the loss of what was then clause 17 – this had attracted particular attention on the grounds of the scope it gave the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills the power to amend primary copyright legislation. It was replaced by a clause allowing copyright owners to take legal action to require Internet Service Providers (IPS) to block access to websites hosting copyright infringing material.

Press reports have indicated that the online copyright measures have a good chance of getting on to the statute book before the upcoming General Election. As you indicate The Bill will have its Second Reading in the House of Commons on 6 April 2010 followed later by a third and Final Reading where it will have to be passed before the legislation can be enacted.

Due to the current Government’s majority, it would be difficult for opposition Parties to defeat the Government without obtaining votes of MPs’ from the Governing Labour Party benches.