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Mandybill set to survive

Photographers rejoice, pirates mourn

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The Mandybill looks set to become law, with its teeth and gold fillings intact.

Conservatives have vowed to oppose three controversial clauses of the Digital Economy Bill in the next 48 hours of legislative horse trading, but will keep the online file sharing portions intact. Photographers have been more persuasive than the anti-copyright lobby: Clause 43, involving collective licensing and orphan works, is one of the three that Tory culture secretary Jeremy Hunt has said must go.

The others are Clause 1 and Clause 29, both of which involve adding expanding the role of uber-quango Ofcom.

Hunt slammed the Bill, calling it "a digital disappointment of colossal proportions". He said the government had ducked the issues of the digital radio switchover and the provision of local news, and failed to clarify the role of the BBC or strengthen independent TV production. The Tories said they may review these issues if the Mandybill becomes law. The piracy measures, while not perfect, reflected the Commons consensus that something needed to be done to deter online copyright infringement and protect jobs.

To the surprise of the music business, it means that the illiberal Section 18, giving Courts powers to block access to sites that exist largely to deliver infringing material, will survive. The section, previously Section 17, was introduced in response to industry concerns about cyberlockers such as Rapidshare.

Introducing the Bill on second reading, the Minister for Culture, Media and Sport Ben Bradshaw said, "The creative industries have grown at twice the rate of the economy as a whole over the past ten years, and they should do so again over the next ten, thus helping to create many of the jobs of the future."

“These people may be nerds, fanatics or zealots for all I know, but they are concerned and worried”

Bradshaw said the 20,000 emails received from anti-copyright campaigners needed to be weighed against the "hundreds of thousands of jobs" in the copyright sector.

Several MPs expressed support for the principles of the Bill, but disquiet about its passage through the Commons without greater scrutiny. John Whittingdale, chair of the Culture Media and Sport Committee, was one of several.

"It cannot be right for us to cut off the whole of Starbucks just because one person went in for a cup of coffee and illegally shared files," he said.

"I hope that the Secretary of State is right and the vast majority of people will mend their ways on receipt of a warning that they are doing something illegal, but I am not wholly confident. In the long term, we will have to look for other solutions," he added.

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Next page: Snappers rejoice

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