- 20 Nov 09, 09:26 GMT
This morning I joined a clutch of damp, sleepy and dishevelled hacks - sorry, bright-eyed and enthusiastic fellow journalists - at a briefing at the Department of Business in Whitehall about the Digital Economy Bill.
In brief, this sets out to take Lord Carter's Digital Britain report and turn some of it into law.
Amongst the main measures:
• Action against illegal file-sharing forcing ISPs to take action against infringers. This includes the controversial measure which could see repeat offenders cut off
• Allows the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act to be amended if in future new communications technologies allow content to be copied in new ways
• New duty on Ofcom to encourage investment the spread of next-generation broadband. Part of this involves that £6 telephone tax - but that will be introduced via the pre-Budget report
• Digital "safety measures" to stop firms registering domain names for illicit use
• Age ratings on video games to be made compulsory for all games aimed at players aged 12 and over
Now the most controversial elements are of course those measures against unlawful file-sharers, and the ministers were subjected to a series of questions about the possibility of repeat offenders having their connections suspended.
They were very keen to stress that this was the nuclear option - first of all internet service providers would have to send out letters to those spotted file-sharing on their networks.
The content owners will have to pay a fixed fee, set by Ofcom, to have that letter sent to the ISP's customer.
If that didn't work, then the secretary of state would have to go to Parliament before the ISPs could be forced to press the suspension button - or use other technical measures.
That decision would only be made if the lesser measures failed to cut unlawful file-sharing by at least 70%. But the ministers seemed pretty unclear about the timetable for that 70% reduction - and even less clear about how it would be measured.
While the government says it has the support of the Conservatives for these measures, it has already received some friendly fire from Tom Watson, the former digital minister who is worried about those powers to amend the copyright act, and from the big ISPs, notably TalkTalk.
Stephen Timms, the minister for Digital Britain, insisted that something like 90% of the ISP market supported the policy - his maths seem questionable - and that in any case new business models were making file-sharing less attractive.
On the question of rural broadband - a hot issue I know for some readers of this blog - there was a promise that the £6 landline tax would go a long way to making sure that 90% of the country would get access to fast broadband by 2017.
That new tax, though, will only be implemented if the government manages to get a Finance Bill through before the general election, against fierce opposition.
So two big ideas in this bill - that content owners should be able to pursue file-sharers with severe punishment, and that major public investment should go into next generation broadband. But given the fuzzy timetables and determined opposition, will either of them come to anything?
Update 16:00: In this morning's briefing Stephen Timms suggested that the majority of the internet service providers supported the anti-file-sharing measures - indeed, he claimed that ISPs representing 90% of customers were backing it.
But so far today I've received statements from both ISPA - the internet providers' trade body - and BT, which Mr Timms cited as a supporter, and neither has been exactly enthusiastic.
ISPA secretary general Nicholas Lansman said:
"ISPA is extremely disappointed by aspects of the proposals to address illicit filesharing. This legislation is being fast-tracked by the Government and will do little to address the underlying problem."
Whereas John Petter, managing director of BT Consumer, said this:
"We believe abuse of copyright is wrong. However, we have real concerns about the government's plans and the lack of legal protections for accused individuals. We believe that technical measures are not the way forward and that a system of court fines for repeat infringers is preferable. Such an approach would not only protect innocent people, it could also create a fund that could be used to support the UK's creative industries."
The music and movie industries have welcomed the bill - but it looks as though the government faces quite a battle with the ISPs.
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites