Digital Economy Bill [ Lords]

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 4:27 pm on 6th April 2010.

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Photo of Ben Bradshaw Ben Bradshaw The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport 4:27 pm, 6th April 2010

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right about that.

During the Bill's passage through the other place, 700 amendments were tabled. The Government listened to the concerns that were raised, and we either accepted a number of amendments or made some of our own. I hope that those hon. Members who have followed this discussion for some time will agree that, for the most part, the Bill has arrived here in better shape as a result. I can understand the frustration felt by colleagues that the parliamentary timetable means it unlikely that they will have the chance to get their teeth into the detail of the legislation as they would have liked, but I hope that the House will support the Bill's Second Reading and recognise both the importance of passing many of these measures now and the potential damage to our digital economy and our creative industries if we fail to do so and there is further delay.

Let me turn to the contents of the Bill. I have already outlined to the House the importance of the digital economy and our creative industries to Britain's economy. But, hundreds of millions of pounds a year is haemorrhaging from our creative industries because of unlawful file sharing, and that is not a harmless or victimless activity. It deprives our musicians, writers, film makers, actors and other artists of their livelihood, and if we do not do something about such activity it will pose a serious threat to our creative sectors and Britain's leadership in them. We believe that the provisions in the Bill balance protection for our creative artists with a fair deal for consumers without trampling on the openness that makes the online world the gateway to new experiences and greater democratic freedoms.

The Bill introduces obligations on internet service providers-the ISPs-to send letters to subscribers who are linked to an alleged infringement, and to record the number of notifications with which each subscriber is associated. Copyright owners will be able to apply for a court order to access the names and addresses of alleged serious infringers and take targeted legal action. We expect that those initial measures will be effective and anticipate that, on receipt of such letters, the vast majority of subscribers will seek legal alternatives. There is research and real-world experience to back that up.

The Bill also introduces a power to impose on ISPs a further obligation to apply technical measures against the most serious infringers. To give the initial obligations time to work, those measures cannot be introduced for 12 months from when the code comes into effect. Any decision to introduce them would be based on a careful examination of the evidence, including an assessment and a progress report from Ofcom. That includes looking to see whether copyright owners have played their part in relation to education and developing legal offers.

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