Lord Alton of Liverpool

Digital Economy Bill

Lord Alton has been written to by at least one member of the public - see text below. If you wish, email adopt@openrightsgroup.org



Dear Lord Alton of Liverpool,

I am writing with regard to the Digital Economy Bill; as you will know, amendments may be tabled in the Lords until December 16th. Those of us concerned about the Bill have been asked to write to random Lords, but this is not entirely random; at the time you won Edge Hill in 1979, I was a liberal activist (though not in your constituency), and I'm aware you have remained very active in public life since leaving the Commons.

There are several problems with this Bill, but the provisions that alarm me most are the issue of responsibility for traffic through one's IP address, and the power of disconnection for copyright infringement. The first exposes one to liability for any activity using one's WiFi (which may have been hacked) or through facilities one provides (in a pub or internet cafe for example). This is not only economically dangerous (it could kill off public WiFi, for instance); it is also a high-handed and arbitrary judgement on what is in fact a complex question that should be resolved with reference to English common law.

Regarding administrative disconnection for excessive downloading, any disconnection should require a judicial decision at some level so that it can be challenged in law. Abuse of copyright is of course a form of theft, and I have no wish to defend it. But legal provisions for its prosecution already exist. I am also not clear how it is to be decided that a certain download volume constitutes a probable infringement.

Moreover, many people depend on broadband to pursue their business, and the arbitrary confiscation of the tools of one's trade was outlawed by the Magna Carta!

I do hope that you will feel able to examine these questions and, if you share my concerns, table suitable amendments or assist your colleagues to do so.

Yours sincerely,

Mike Robbins


Many thanks for your letter. I see the force of your points. If it is possible to be present for the debate on the Bill I will support any amendments tabled to challenge these proposals.