It is is being widely reported that the Digital Economy Bill will be pushed through the Commons in the short time before the election without any amendments’ being accepted, without its passing through a committee stage and without a third reading.
Most people will be astonished to learn that this is constitutional – if indeed it is. Parliament’s own website states: ‘Committee stage of a Bill must take place in both the House of Commons and House of Lords.’
The House of Commons has both a right and a responsibility to scrutinize and amend this legislation, the more so in that parts of it are highly contentious.
Much public attention has been paid to the provisions that are intended to protect the rights of copyright-holders from infringement through illegal file-sharing. These have provoked indignation on a very wide scale.
The underlying problem for copyright-owners and licensees is the fact that many members of the public do not understand how copyright sustains the production of the creative works that they enjoy. A growing number of people, especially young people, are resistant to the idea that copyright is legitimate and indispensable.
If the Bill is rushed into law without full democratic scrutiny, under a process that is dubiously constitutional, this can only undermine further the public’s perception of the legitimacy of the copyright regime.
This would be bad for the big media companies, in whose interests the Bill has been largely framed, and disastrous for freelance creators, the authors, artists, photographers and composers without whom the creative industries would not exist.