83441775 250x142 The Digital Economy Bill races towards the finish lineThe UK’s controversial Digital Economy Bill looks likely to be made law after a passionate but scarcely attended debate in the House of Commons yesterday.

If there’s one thing that sums up the debate, it’s the image to the right. Shared around Twitter last night after being posted by Myatu, it shows just how few MPs bothered to debate this bill that promises to significantly reshape Britain’s digital future.

The debate went on long into the evening and we suspect that this was taken later on in proceedings but even at the debate’s peak, attendance in the House was thin to say the least.

Just as a reminder about why this is important, the controversial elements of this wide-ranging bill include.

  • Compulsory internet disconnection for persistent internet pirates. Isn’t an internet connection close to becoming a basic human right in the UK?
  • The ability for copyright holders to force ISPs to block access to websites they say are hosting illegally copied files.
  • Owners of publicly accessible wi-fi hotspots will be liable for piracy committed on their connection. Bye-bye public wi-fi?

Many of the MPs who spoke at yesterday’s debate said that the Bill requires more time to be considered and shouldn’t be rushed through before the election. Still, it looks likely that it will be hurried through its final stages to be made law before the 6 May General Election. So much for our earlier optimism, eh?

The government line appears to be “Yes, it’s not perfect, but let’s pass this now and we’ll fix its shortcomings later”. If that happens, it will be a victory for the New Rich Luddite pressure groups with friends in high places.

The Bill goes to its committee stage today.