The Closing of the Net  "original and valuable"  Times Higher Education

Civil liberties...the UK election ...and the Digital Economy Act. Can the Liberal Democrats use the Digital Economy Act as one of  their bargaining chips in their deal with the Conservatives to form the new UK government?


Following the UK election on Thursday, which gave none of the political parties a clear majority, negotiations are  now taking place between the Conservatives - who gained the largest number of seats - and the Liberal Democrats - who hold the balance of seats between the Conservatives and Labour.

David Cameron has stated that one policy issue where the Conservatives and LibDems have common ground is civil liberties. He cites their mutual opposition to Labour's  ID card scheme. 

However, as iptegrity readers will know there is another major civil liberties issue raging in the background, which the LibDems have understood and  the Conservatives have not.

These issues concern the Digital Economy Act and the reversal of  a principle of justice which has existed in England since the Magna Carta, namely the presumption of innocence and the right to a fair trial. Mr Clegg's advisors will be able to obtain full details of this issue from their Liberal colleagues in the European Parliament who fought for it in the Telecoms Package in November last year.  In particular, their

Swedish colleague, Lena Ek would be able to explain  it to them. 


In brief, the measures to support copyright by acting against Internet users are intended to bypass the court system. The EU Telecoms Package contains a clause which seeks to ensure that such a bypass cannot happen.  In the process of the Telecoms Package through the EU legislature there was considerable public debate surrounding this issue, and it is well-known in Brussels.

Moreover, those who understand technology and the Internet are only too painfully aware that the implementation of such measures, as proposed under the Digital Economy Act, stands to create a technical infrastructure capable of censorship, and the measures could easily be misappropriated for censorship purposes. 

The Digital Economy Act was put in place as a protectionist measure for the large and wealthy entertainment industries.   Mr Cameron admitted before the election, in the YouTube Facebook leaders debate , that he could have blocked the Digital Economy Actl.  (The Digital Economy Bill was rammed through the British Parliament on 6 April, and gained royal  assent with indecent haste on 8 April)

The reason he did not do so was to support the "good bits" which were "important" for the music and entertainment industries. My feeling is that he was never briefed on the civil liberties issues. The reason may be that the collusion with Labour and corporate industry  goes back to the European Parliament and the Telecoms Package. The UK Conservatives in the European Parliament singularly failed to address the civi liberties issues and in the end were out-voted. 

Assuming that the LibDems can convince Mr Cameron of the serious civil liberties issues at stake, what then do they ask for? A repeal of the Act? A stay of execution - blocking the Ofcom discussions? 


 For more information on the EU Telecoms Package and the civil liberties issues, please see the Telecoms Package sections on

In my section Copyright Business I am starting to track the wealth that is retained in these industries.


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 Economy Act: can Clegg push Cameron? 8  May 2010 








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