Lib Dems To Vote On Repealing Digital Economy Act

Grassroots members and European parliamentarians in the UK’s coalition Liberal Democrat party want it to repeal the controversial online piracy sections of the UK’s Digital Economy Act, which was devised to combat unauthorised downloading of digital content.

The proposals will be voted on by the party at its autumn conference in Birmingham in September.

The working group’s paper, Preparing The Ground: Stimulating Growth In The Digital Economy, advocates repealing sections three to 18, which would compel ISPs to level graduated-response action against infringing customers at rightsholders’ behest, or merely sections 17 and 18, which would allow rightsholders to obtain injunctions compelling ISPs to block access to services hosting content without authorisation.

Right after coming to power in May 2010, culture secretary Jeremy Hunt told paidContent:UK the new government would not repeal the act.

The paper, written by 17 members of the party’s information technology working group, calls the act “backward-facing legislation”, “supporting obsolete standards and business models that cannot capitalise on the future opportunities that the internet promises”. And yet: ” We take the clear view that digital piracy is a form of theft, and to be repudiated.”

In some ways, the paper comes after several horses have bolted. Not only is the act now in place and ISPs’ judicial review been dismissed – a Commons committee has already planned to review the likely success of the act, and the government has already accepted all of Professor Ian Hargreaves’ recommendations for streamlining IP law in order to make digital content business models more efficient.

And the paper is highly ideological, more than practical, and perhaps contradictory. “The government should prioritise freedom of speech over the regulation of material,” it says, but: “We believe that rights holders should be able to issue take-down notices in a simple and automated manner, so long as these actions do not cause legitimate material to be removed.”