The U.K. government’s Digital Economy Bill, which includes measures to tackle copyright infringement online, is progressing through the U.K. parliament but still has to pass a number of stages to become law before a general election is called in the spring.
The House of Lords completed the committee stage on Feb. 8 and the first day of the report stage, where the Lords will go through line-by-line examination of the Bill, is scheduled for March 1.
There were concerns about clause 15 of the Bill, detailing how rights holders and Internet Service Providers would divide the cost of identifying and notifying broadband subscribers suspected of copyright infringement. But the government clarified this by proposing that labels would bear 75% of the costs.
Parliamentary procedure requires at least two weeks between the committee and report stages, so that ministers and officials can rewrite changes into the Bill. After it clears the House of Lords, the Bill could reach the House of Commons by March 15 – but ministers still have a tight schedule to pass it through the Commons before the Easter recess.
The election is likely to take place May 6 and parliament would be dissolved in April.
The Digital Economy Bill includes measures to oblige Internet Service Providers to write educational letters to subscribers suspected of illegally downloading or uploading content. The law will also give ministers the authority to introduce a graduated response system, which could suspend Internet accounts, if there is no reduction in the level of file-sharing as a result of the letters.
There are also measures aimed at encouraging the switchover of U.K. radio from analog to digital.
Ford Ennals, chief executive of trade body Digital Radio U.K., today (Feb. 10) urged a gathering of MPs to support the Digital Economy Bill when it reaches the House of Commons.
Speaking at a parliamentary breakfast briefing hosted by John Whittingdale MP, chairman of the Culture Media and Sport Select Committee, Ennals said the Bill would benefit small radio networks.
“The radio clauses of the Digital Economy Bill will enable a host of benefits for small stations including deregulatory measures for small-scale commercial stations, more licensing certainty for local stations, the licensing of further community stations, as well as allowing for the re-plan of the local digital multiplex map to take place,” said Ennals. “A healthy radio sector is good for stations of all sizes and a digital future will certainly mean a more competitive, compelling and attractive radio industry.”