Page last updated at 15:53 GMT, Tuesday, 6 April 2010 16:53 UK

Plans to tackle internet piracy 'breach human rights'

Boy using a computer
The bill includes plans to tackle internet piracy by disconnecting alleged offenders

Legislation aimed at tackling the problem internet piracy could breach European human rights legislation, Scottish solicitors have warned.

The Digital Economy Bill is being debated by MPs during its second reading in the House of Commons.

It includes plans to grant Ofcom powers to cut off access to the internet for persistent illegal file-sharers.

But the Law Society of Scotland has raised concerns about such sanctions being taken without a court order.

Jim McLean, convener of the Society's intellectual property committee, said there was much in the bill which would help to combat theft of intellectual property.

Serious concerns

However he added: "If the bill were passed as it stands, it would mean that a subscriber's internet access could be limited or even cut off on the grounds of an alleged infringement without any court having made an order against that subscriber.

"This in our view raises serious concerns with the European convention on human rights, which provides that everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law."

Other controversial aspects of the bill, which has been welcomed by the music industry, include copyright holders being given the power to block access to websites hosting illegal content.

It could become law during the wash-up period, which sees outstanding legislation pushed through before a general election.

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