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Could an amendment tabled by Lord Mandelson pave the way for filtering  the Internet in the UK?


The  Digital Economy Bill, which seeks to introduce copyright enforcement measures against peer-to-peer downloading   is currently being debated in the House of Lords. An amendment passed last weekappears to widen the application of the government's proposed " technical measures", and legal experts are debating whether it could open the door for 'filtering'.  It is a simple linguistic change, but the meaning is unclear.

Amendment 155A  replaces the words 'particular' subscribers' with the words ‘all relevant

subscribers'. The amendment relates to the situation where a rights-holder has made one or more allegations against a user.


Questions are being asked as to the exact meaning of the amendment. One issue is whether it could lead to a filtering requirement? Or whether it means that the measures could be generalised in some way? 

The equipment that the ISPs will need, is equipment that will be capable of filtering.  It also begs the question as to the level of debat in the Lords, which is focussing on small changes the text, and ignoring the wider issues which will affect citizens. Should this change open the door to filtering, then the door is also open to other forms of Internet restrictions. 


Here is the full text of the amendment:

 (2) A "technical obligation", in relation to an internet service provider, is an obligation for the provider to take a technical measure against particular subscribers to its service.


LORD MANDELSON  Amendment 148A Page 12, line 43, leave out "particular" and insert "some or all relevant"





Here is the definition of "technical measures"  in the Digital Economy Bill:

(3) A "technical measure" is a measure that-

(a) limits the speed or other capacity of the service provided to a subscriber;

(b) limits access to  particular material, or limits such use;

(c) suspends the service provided to a subscriber; or

(d) limits the service provided to a subscriber in another way.


It is thought that the most likely "technical measure" to be applied will be bandwidth throttling, however, it should be noted that the official definition does include blocking access to specific websites or services as well as suspension of access to the Internet. Note too, the catch-all definition in (d).

 The definition of a "relevant"  subscriber is quite frankly, incomprehensible.


Amendment 155A Page 13, line 4, at end insert-

"( ) A subscriber to an internet access service is "relevant" if the subscriber is a

relevant subscriber to the service, within the meaning of section 124B(3), in

relation to one or more copyright owners."


The House of Lords amendments  to the Digital Economy Bill can be downloaded here. Look for Amendment 148 and 155A . You will need to cross-reference against the full text of the Digital Economy  Bill


This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial-Share Alike 2.5 UK:England and Wales License. It may be used for non-commercial purposes only, and the author's name should be attributed. The correct attribution for this article is: Monica Horten (2010) Digital EconomyBill: is  this filtering by the back door? 25 January 2010

Iptegrity in brief is the website of Dr Monica Horten. I’ve been analysing analysing digital policy since 2008. Way back then, I identified how issues around rights can influence Internet policy, and that has been a thread throughout all of my research. I hold a PhD in EU Communications Policy from the University of Westminster (2010), and a Post-graduate diploma in marketing.   I’ve served as an independent expert on the Council of Europe  Committee on Internet Freedoms, and was involved in a capacity building project in Moldova, Georgia, and Ukraine. I am currently (from June 2022)  Policy Manager - Freedom of Expression, with the Open Rights Group. For more, see About Iptegrity is made available free of charge for  non-commercial use, Please link-back & attribute Monica Horten. Thank you for respecting this.

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