The Digital Economy Bill, which has its final reading in Parliament this afternoon is perhaps the first time that an IT issue has become a genuine political talking point.

Of course, there have been occasions when IT has had a presence in the political sphere - but it's normally about the way that a particular IT contract has been implemented rather than the nature of IT itself. It's attracted attention from beyond these shores: Richard Stallman is never one to miss a chance to excoriate governments or organisations who are abusing users' rights and his piece in the Guardian is an eloquent attack on the Bill. He rightly highlights the absurdity of promoting broadband for all in one breath, while taking the broadband away in another.

Sadly, the massed bands of geeks and digital rights activists are likely to be disappointed. The vote will be in a few hours time and the party whips will have done their worst.

The Digital Economy Bill is the sorriest piece of legislation I can recall being pushed through the houses- and that's saying something. The shabby way that it has been forced through reflects badly on the participants and the whole political process; it's a bill that's put the UK national interests second to small group of record industry executives and it's a shameful day that a political party can surrender so cravenly to such vested interests. I say shameful, but there's little sense of shame from any of the participants.

The bill goes through the House on the same day as the General Election is called. Over the next few weeks, we're going to hear plenty about the importance of the digital economy and the vital role that technology will play. And quite right too, but no MP who has voted for this mess of legislation can be taken seriously.  If you hear an echo to the claim, that will be my hollow laughter.



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