Growing dissent over the Digital Economy Bill reached new heights yesterday after several members of the House of Lords stated their intention to oppose the controversial Clause 17 of the Bill.
Lords Razzall, Clement-Jones, Whitty and Lucas all said that they would oppose the inclusion of Clause 17, while Lord Puttnam and Lord Bragg tabled an amendment which would ensure that any changes to copyright laws are subject to greater parliamentary scrutiny.
The proposed amendment reads: 'No draft instrument may be laid unless parliament has had a previous period of 60 days for scrutiny of proposals for such an instrument under the super-affirmative procedure.'
The Lords' dissatisfaction will come as welcome news to many technology companies, which feel that the proposed changes could threaten the entrepreneurial opportunities offered by the internet by making copyright law in the UK uncertain.
Robin Fry, a media lawyer at law firm Beachcroft LLP, said that he was not surprised to see the changes to the clause, and that it is highly unlikely it could ever have been passed owing to the number of interest parties that would be affected by such a clause.
"Given the bitter arguments, constant amendments and huge interest in the Digital Economy Bill, it was fantasy that the government thought ISPs, rights owners and consumers would simply agree to the Bill with such a clause," he said.
Fry also argued that the latest round of amendments in the Lords suggests that the government would struggle to get any meaningful bill made law before the election in May.
"The level of debate in the Lords underlines the anger this bill is causing, and it hasn't even reached the House of Commons yet where debate can be a lot more fractious. If the Bill is to be passed before May, it is likely to be so altered and watered down as to be utterly pointless," he said.
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