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Digital Bill to strip Britons of their rights

Britain is hoping to put itself at the forefront of the fight against Internet piracy with the new Digital Economy Bill, to be debated in parliament later on Tuesday.

The bill will give authorities the power to block pirate websites and cut off people from the Internet if caught file sharing.

The bill is going to be rushed through at the end of a session when the British Parliament is practically “dead” for practical purposes, at high speed,

without effective consultation or proper discussion.


Protesters claim the measures are too extreme and threaten the very future of the web.

Meanwhile British lawmakers want to make sure that Britain is on the cutting edge of the global digital economy. The Digital Bill will include a clampdown on illegal file sharing, a push for switching over to the digital radio and tougher laws to stop children getting hold of violent video games.

However its detractors see it as draconian because it will give Internet service providers the power to disconnect entire households from the web for illegal file sharing.

The opponents believe the Digital Economy Bill is the most fundamental assault on human rights in Britain for years. It actually proposes the removal of the British right to a fair trial before the severe punishment of disconnecting people from the Internet. They believe that the British music industry has been actively participating in the preparation of this bill and that the bill is “absolutely disgraceful and must be opposed.”

The bill is 79 pages long and is extremely detailed. Thousands of people have contacted their MPs to complain about the bill, it is expected to be rushed through and made into law with minimal discussion.

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The Open Rights Group says the bill also takes advantage of the “wash-up” – the period between the elections being called and the Parliament being dissolved.

The executive director of the Open Rights Group, Jim Killock, revealed that “The bill will be passed through in roughly 45 minutes, through a sort of rushed procedure called the wash-up. This is utterly undemocratic,” he said, “not having the debate in public.”

The bill, which includes disconnecting people from the Internet without due process, will be less about the brave new 21st Century digital world and more about protecting the old 20th Century business models used in the music and film industries, and some say it threatens the nationwide Internet connectivity it is supposed to be promoting.

If anyone in your house or even on your street uses the Internet for music downloads, you may face a cut in your Internet connection speed or a complete cut-off from the web. The same could happen to places with public Wi-Fi connections like pubs and restaurants.

Certain changes have been made to the bill, though, including one saying the public will have to be consulted before the government blocks websites providing pirated music and videos, but protesters say “consulted” does not automatically mean “listened to”, so there is no substitute for proper debate.

Austin Mitchell, a British MOP representing the Labour Party told RT that while the bill on Internet copyright is still in proceeding, it is already clear that it would protect the interests of big businesses and suppress a relatively small group of enthusiasts who exchange music and video files among themselves. The MP compared the bill to a sledgehammer used to smash a small knot. Besides this, he said that the present draft is unjust to those who become involved in Internet piracy against their will, as many sites do not clearly indicate that they distribute the content in violation of copyright laws.

Interview with Labour MP Austin Mitchell