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Government amends Digital Economy Bill

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Following political and public outrage over the government’s plans to adapt future copyright laws without proper consultation, the Digital Economy Bill has been altered to remove ‘dictatorial’ powers over Britain’s copyright.

Clause 17 of the Digital Economy Bill gave the Secretary of State, currently Lord Mandelson, the ability to amend the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act and “make any consequential amendment, repeal or revocation of provision contained or made under the Act” without a full parliamentary process undergone by all major changes in law.

But opponents had argued that giving such far-reaching powers to the government would allow changes to be enforced on a whim and to the detriment of industries and the public.

The government has now put forward amendments to the Bill, offering more scrutiny, and introducing a possible 60-day consultation period before copyright changes are enforced.

The Bill will tackle the wide-spread problem of piracy currently crippling the nation’s creative industries. But its introduction has been fraught with controversy and outcry from the public and those industries affected, and almost 300 amendments are expected before it is enforced later this year.

The amendment laid out by Lord Mandelson and the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) explained that, in order for alterations in law to be introduced, an instance of copyright infringement must be undeniably seen as affecting businesses and consumers.

The BIS has defended its announcement, claiming that current changes are not an admission of failure in the original drafting of the Bill and such ministerial powers will be needed to adapt laws and counter future developments in piracy.

“The Government remains squarely behind the aims of clause 17 – we would not have written it into the Bill if we did not think it was needed,” said a BIS statement.

“However, concerns have been raised around whether the clause is appropriately targeted. This is why we have tabled a series of Government amendments which aim to clarify the breadth and scope of the clause and further reinforce the transparency of the process and the scrutiny of Parliament,” it said.

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Written by Andrew Hodges

January 21, 2010 at 5:20 pm

Posted in Comment, LinkedIn

Tagged with , ,

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