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Mandybill is mostly harmless, says MP watchdog

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A committee of MPs has surprisingly said that copyright infringement penalties for internet users proposed in the Digital Economy are justifiable. However, it wants the Government to explain them better, and publish more detail - particularly on the threshold for suspending the accounts of serial infringers.

To the likely disappointment of campaigners and ISPs, the Parliamentary Select Committee on Human Rights concludes that the legislation is justified. In fact, the MPs agree that penalties are needed and want the Government to make the case for creators' rights more strongly, given the current crisis.

Nor do the proposals breach the EU-wide right to a fair hearing. It is "unlikely that Article 6 ECHR is engaged", they conclude.

However, they say it's almost impossible to gauge the effects of the legislation currently before Parliament, because it's so woolly. They also want Ofcom to review technical measures.

"It is unlikely that the operation of these proposals alone will lead to a significant risk of a breach of individual internet users' right to respect for privacy, their right to freedom of expression or their right to respect for their property rights," says the report.

"The limited impact on these rights by the operation of the copyright infringement reporting mechanism proposed is likely to be justifiable."

Campaigners had been pushing for a more emphatic and absolute defence. In France, for example, the extra-judicial nature of the Hadopi "Three Strikes" bill was found to breach human rights in several areas, and the legislation had to be withdrawn and rewritten.

Unlike France, however, the UK legislation does not propose termination, merely suspension as a last resort. Nor does it establish a "Death Penalty" for internet users - there is no blacklist database. So serial file sharers who have ignored multiple warnings won't have access removed, and can move on to another provider.

The MPs have suggested amendments of their own. They want account holders to have access to a Tribunal, so a copyright holder's allegation isn't in itself proof of infringement. And if the Tribunal rules for the account holder, then they should be able to recover costs.

They also want powers granted under Section 17 - which allows the Minister to make changes to the law on the hoof - to be more closely scrutinised.

You can read the report here

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