Digital Economy Bill Passes

The UK’s Digital Economy Bill has been passed by the House of Commons, with MPs okaying the measure in a 189 to 47 vote.

The Bill, which also was granted Royal Assent, makes PEGI the UK’s sole rating system for videogames, introduces a variety of provisions for dealing with illegal file sharers, and debuts measures for blocking Internet access to online sites that may promote online copyright infringement.

The latter two procedures drew the ire of the Open Rights Group, whose Executive Director Jim Killock wrote, “What a debacle. Measures to allow disconnection of individuals from the internet, for undefined periods of time, web blocking laws; all with no real scrutiny and limited debate.”

Conservative MP Bill Cash, who spoke out against the bill, said, “Even in the 16th century, there was an attempt to track down people who set up secret presses; it made no difference.”

He added, “The number of people who have connected with their MP, with the public at large, on radio and on television, represent a significant core — perhaps even a significantly vast range — of people who simply are not prepared to accept the restrictions that the bill suggests should be imposed on them."

Game industry groups were, however, happy with Bill in relation to videogames. Laurie Hall, Director General of the Video Standards Council said, “This is an important moment for video games classification in the UK.  The Act creates a new, improved, single system for age-rating all games using the PEGI system.  It gives new powers to the VSC as the sole rating agency for games and this will strengthen child protection on the Internet."

ELSPA Director General Michael Rawlinson called the passing of the Bill a “huge victory for child safety, ELSPA and the games industry.”

The Guardian offers a handy quick guide to the digital Economy Bill here.

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