The Digital Economy Bill has been passed by the House of Commons, although without its clause on the licensing of orphan works.
The bill, taken after 11pm on Wednesday night, went to a division vote after a few hours of argument and recrimination in the house of elected representatives. Clause 43 was voted down before the final choice was made, with 189 voting for the bill and 47 against.
Most of those who voted had been waiting outside the Commons while the debate took place — before the final vote took place, the majority of those in the chamber opposed the bill.
The Digital Economy Bill is a wide-ranging package of legislation that saw a heavily truncated period of scrutiny in the Commons, due to the announcement on Tuesday of the general election on 6 May. Sections of the bill include a crackdown on copyright infringement that paves the way for alleged file-sharers to have their internet connections limited or suspended.
Clause 43 would have allowed the use of works for which no owner could be found. Photographers complained that this would have let commercial interests exploit photos found on sites such as Flickr, without paying.
Clause 18 of the bill was also taken out, but it was replaced with a new Clause 1, which has the same effect — to make it possible for ISPs to be forced to block access to websites that host copyrighted material. This has raised fears of a new wave of censorship in the UK — in Wednesday's debate, MPs pointed out that Wikileaks could be banned for leaking material which governments could claim as copyrighted, for example.