The Digital Economy Act is something we've covered very closely on TR and with good reason: we believe it is a horrendously misjudged and ill-thought out piece of legislation which places British citizens under severe and flawed scrutiny and further damages the credibility of both copyright holders and government officials. So could this be the first chink of light?
Still riding high from his impressive showing in the country's first ever Prime Ministerial Debate (admittedly easier when 1. he had no recent party parliamentary record to defend and 2. Cameron and Brown went relatively easy on him in case of a hung parliament), Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has said he wants the Digital Economy Act repealed.
Speaking to university student communal website The Student Room, Clegg was asked:
Will you reconsider the Digital Economy Bill considering the manner it was pushed through, without proper scrutiny, the lack of MPs in attendance at the Bill’s hearing and also taking into account that some ministers have demonstrated considerable lack of technical knowledge on the consequences of the proposed legislation?
He replied: "We did our best to prevent the Digital Economy Bill being rushed through at the last moment. It badly needed more debate and amendment, and we are extremely worried that it will now lead to completely innocent people having their internet connections cut off. It was far too heavily weighted in favour of the big corporations and those who are worried about too much information becoming available. It badly needs to be repealed, and the issues revisited."
I'd say there's little to argue with there and in fairness, the Liberal Dems did largely oppose the Digital Economy Bill in the first place. They also managed to have a clause inserted into the Bill (which has now become law) that no "technical measure" (read: cutting off Internet connections) can be introduced for a minimum of 12 months. Furthermore such action cannot be rubberstamped without further analysis and consultation.
Ultimately, given the waves of abuse which have met the #debill (as it is known on Twitter), this is a strong position for the party to find itself. Furthermore, while it is unlikely to win the election, it is likely to hold a key role influencing policy should there be either a) a hung parliament, or b) a narrow victory for either Labour or the Conservatives.
Furthermore, since exploits such as the Seedf**ker hack have shown the potential to run rings around copyright holders, coupled with threats from hackers that they will make an example of MPs by hijacking their home WiFi to download illegal content, it is a stance which at least one party needed to take.
Lastly, with two more Prime Ministerial Debates still to be held and the Digital Economy Act set to be a topic on at least one of them there's hope yet people...