The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) will support legal challenges to the recently passed Digital Economy Act, according to a new national policy.

The new policy, which was signed off by the NUJ's National Executive Council in May, raises concern from other industry groups that the Act's measures could be used against sites that publish material of public interest without permission, such as the whistleblowing site Wikileaks.

The union policy calls for the Act to be implemented in a way that "fully protects freedom of information and expression".

Originally, NUJ members focused their campaigning on the controversial clause 43 on orphan works. This was later dropped before the Bill was passed into law in the "wash-up" at the end of the last government.

Now the union has formulated a policy that will see it support opposition to the Act, such as that led by internet service provider TalkTalk, in the courts.

"The measures in the Digital Economy Act are a form of protectionism by the existing entertainment industry, which has been self-destructively slow in adapting to new technology," says the background to the new policy, seen by Journalism.co.uk.

"The initial growth of illegal mp3 sharing, for example, was due to the failure to provide a legal alternative. Services such as iTunes have seen huge growth year-on-year."

The proposals in full:
1. Any measures to allow the blocking of websites must be implemented in such a way that fully protects the freedom of information and expression. Sites that link incidentally to illegally-distributed material, such as search engines, or that inadvertently distribute material illegally, such as sites based on user-generated content or free wifi providers, should be exempted from the provisions. The possibility of a public interest defence should be made explicit in the implementation of the Act's provisions.
 
2. The NUJ should work with colleagues in the FEU [Federation of Entertainment Unions] to support new ways to make entertainment pay as an alternative to the counter-productive repressive measures in the Digital Economy Act. Many of these will include online systems where there are NUJ members or potential members.
 
3. The union should support, in principle, efforts to challenge the Act in the courts to ensure that any measures that are implemented are fair and consistent with international law.

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