MPs in the House of Commons have passed the controversial Digital Economy Bill, despite accusations of a "stitch up" and former minister Tom Watson calling the bill a "catastrophic disaster".

The bill is an attempt to tackle the growing problem of illegal file-sharing online, but has come under a lot of criticism for promoting a 'three strikes' style penalty system for persistent offenders, whereby ISPs are required to police and – potentially – cut off their own customers.

Copyright holders will then also be able to apply for a court order to get the names and addresses of persistent filesharing offenders.

A catastrophic disaster

Former minister Tom Watson said the bill was a "catastrophic disaster" as it stands.

"There might be a deal with the Tory front bench and the Lib Dem front bench but there are 20,000 people who have taken the time to e-mail their MPs about this in the last seven days alone," Mr Watson said of the proposals.

"They are extremely upset that this bill will not have the scrutiny it deserves and requires."

The bill was approved by MPs by a majority of 142 votes and is now with the House of Lords for final approval.

The legislation is one of over 10 bills being considered by the government in what is called the "wash-up period" - the remaining time before the legislature is dissolved before a general election.

Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw said of the bill that: "Hundreds of millions of pounds every year is currently haemorrhaging from our creative industries because of unlawful file-sharing.

"This is not a harmless or victimless activity. It deprives our musicians, writers and film makers and other artists of their livelihoods and if we don't do something about it, it will pose a serious threat to our creative sectors and Britain's in them."

Via the BBC