Secretary of state Lord Mandelson is planning to introduce changes to the Digital Economy Bill that would grant him, and future ministers, sweeping new powers to enforce copyright laws.
A letter leaked to internet activist and author Cory Doctorow revealed that Mandelson is asking for "language" to be put into the bill that would allow the secretary of state to make "secondary legislation", i.e. legislation passed without debate, to amend the provisions of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act (1988).
These powers would allow any secretary of state to arbitrarily set sentences for illegal downloading, including jail time, or a three-strikes policy that Mandelson has already said he wants in place.
The new rules would also allow ministers to "confer rights" on third parties, such as representatives from the recording industry, to investigate and enforce actions against suspected copyright offenders.
Finally, the home secretary would be able to "impose such duties, powers or functions on any person as may be specified in connection with facilitating online infringement".
This would allow the home secretary to force internet service providers to investigate their customers and hand over personal information to third parties.
"This is as bad as I've ever seen, folks. It's a declaration of war by the entertainment industry and their captured regulators against the principles of free speech, privacy, freedom of assembly, the presumption of innocence, and competition," said Doctorow.
"This proposal creates the office of Pirate-Finder General, with unlimited power to appoint militias who are above the law, who can pry into every corner of your life, who can disconnect you from your family, job, education and government, who can fine you or put you in jail."
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