Many bloggers and others have rightly noted that amendments to the Crime and Courts Bill that were voted in the House of Commons on Monday have the potential to weigh unfairly on bloggers and other small publishers. The amendments relate to exemplary damages and court costs.
These amendments can be changed before they pass into law, though there is not much time.
The amendments are the work of Conservatives in government and not of Labour, the Liberal Democrats or for that matter Hacked Off.
They have not been endorsed in any way by Hacked Off. On the contrary, at the weekend we urged the three parties not to approve them finally there and then, but to leave time for them to be improved. The parties agreed to this.
For what it is worth, we believe the potential impact on bloggers and small publishers was unforeseen – an accident in the drafting – and we know of no reason why politicians might resist efforts to put things right.
The amendments go to the House of Lords on Monday for what is likely to be their last stage in Parliament. New changes, if they are to be adopted, have to be ready tomorrow.
We have been working hard, with the support of a legislative drafting specialist, to find the best way of changing the amendments so that the law does not bear down unfairly on bloggers and small publishers, and so that for almost all web-based publishers the provisions would actually give them protection. We will make our suggestions to the political parties very soon, and we expect to publish them as soon as practical after that.
If the amendments that we propose are accepted, almost all bloggers, with a very few, rare exceptions, will be completely untouched by the changes.