BCS says Digital Economy Bill needs 'softly, softly' approach

By Dave Bailey
11 Mar 2010 View Comments
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Chartered Institute for IT: The bill could have huge consequences for online activity that are currently poorly understood

The Chartered Institute for IT, also known as the British Computer Society (BCS), has called for more time to be spent on considering the implications of the Digital Economy bill currently passing through Parliament.

Elizabeth Sparrow, the Institute's president, said: "The bill could have huge consequences for online activity that are currently poorly understood."

Further reading

The Digital Economy bill's proposals have been heavily discussed since its announcement, and it is currently due for its third reading in the House of Lords prior to its final passage in the Commons.

Sparrow said: "Those opportunities could be curtailed and even diminished if some of the proposals being discussed make it into law.”

The most controversial powers include the modification of copyright legislation without full parliamentary scrutiny, powers to block or take down web sites based on allegations of copyright infringement, and classifications of "service providers" and obligations placed upon them.

The Institute is concerned that speeding the bill through Parliament could actually increase digital exclusion and affect people who need internet access.

The Institute also said that the bill places potentially onerous burdens on small companies, schools and libraries in terms of having to comply with copyright law: "This could result in reduced internet access and availability to many vulnerable members of society, who may well derive the greatest benefit, " said Sparrow.

Although the Institute has raised these concerns, it concedes that the bill's passage has been valuable in raising some fundamental issues.

"Copyright and the creative industries are important and must be supported, but not to the net detriment of society," the Institute pointed out.

One worry for the bill's proponents is that "better legislation later, rather than hurried legislation now," could see the bill delayed beyond the upcoming general election.

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