Opinion: Digital Economy Act – The fight isn’t over

It’s difficult to quantify the mess the Labour government left us in. Sure, the £158,000,000,000 annual deficit they left behind was one big quantity. But there were also the thousands of children being held in detention, our civil liberties in tatters, university finances out of control, record low levels of house building… the list seems endless.

But seemingly this wasn’t enough for Labour. In their dying breath they created yet another mess for the next government to sort. The Digital Economy Bill was forced through Parliament in its last week before recessing for the General Election campaign.

Grassroots Lib Dems made their objections clearly felt at 2010’s spring conference. Despite having plenty on their hands as PPCs, Bridget Fox and Julian Huppert tabled an emergency motion which raised key objections to the Bill’s most controversial clauses: website blocking and the termination of Internet connections.

Yesterday’s announcement by Vince Cable saw a big chunk of the motion become government policy. The website blocking clauses of the Digital Economy Act are now dead. While caution must still remain regarding other legislation that could be having similar effects, this is nonetheless a huge success.

But that’s only half of our objections quenched. The termination of Internet accounts is still very much on this government’s agenda, despite the serious impact this will have on the day-to-day lives of people who get caught up in this bad legislation, as well as the erosion of our online liberty we are all now to be subjected to.

So while there is something to celebrate, we’ve only won half of the battle. An illiberal new £20 charge simply to appeal an unfair accusation of copyright infringement shows that the entertainment industry lobbyists still have significant pull on the government’s thinking. They aren’t going to stop lobbying. So we must not stop campaigning to get the draconian Internet disconnection laws wiped from our country’s statute books.

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