Digital Economy Bill - Your hand in our downfall

Computer user in handcuffs

I've been tweeting quite a lot recently, not about travel, but about politics and in particular, the Digital Economy Bill (#DEbill)... or as I prefer to think of it, the Internet Control, Surveillance and Punishment Bill.

A couple of people have queried me about it, so here's where I'm coming from.

I don't have a problem with much of #DEbill. Most of the provisions on regional news, DAB radio, etc are fine. So too are the clauses on infrastructure, though I think we've been short-changed. The national target min speed should be at least 50Mb, not a pathetic 2Mb, if we are to keep pace with other digital economies.

I do have an issue with "orphan works" clauses which, like much of the bill, haven't really been thought through or debated enough and should have been amended to protect the rights of contemporary photographers.

Importantly, I am not against anti-piracy legislation to protect the music, tv & film industries even though many commentators argue that those industries are out of touch with new technology and need to change their business models. I could be swayed either way on that, but I pay for all my downloaded music & video and feel at least in the short term there should be a way to stop the large-scale free sharing of those works.

My big issue with #DEbill is that, instead of being targeted, it introduces sweeping sledgehammer legislation (deliberately I suspect) that once again tramples all over our civil liberties. It doesn't just cover .mp3 and .mov file sharing. It covers all content that a copyright holder considers infringed, AND the offended party doesn't even have to prove the infringement before a jury (remember those? No longer required thanks to this totalitarian government).

So, if, despite my encouragement over recent weeks/days, you didn't try to counter-balance the huge industry lobby by writing to your MP about this, let me see if I can paint you a simple hypothetical picture of what your back-sliding acquiescence may have enabled...

Letter #1

From: Chairman, GreedyBastard PLC

To: Secretary of State

Dear employee,

It appears somebody has leaked an internal memo listing the sums we have been covertly depositing in your Swiss bank account. Something must be done immediately. By the way, we consider this to be a frightful infringement of our copyright on this document, nod nod, wink wink.

Letter #2

From: Ofcom Enforcement Officer

To: Innocent Conduit ISP Ltd

Dear Sirs,

It has been drawn to our attention that two websites which you host, and, are offering for download a copyrighted work belonging to GreedyBastard PLC.

Under our sweeping new powers, I order you to sever connections to the aforementioned websites. You may ignore any protestations of innocence which are irrelevant under the Digital Economy Bill 2010.

Now do you geddit?


cyberlina said…
Alastair, good points and hilarious examples!

I am amazed there isn't already a bigger backlash about the routine violation of privacy and the whole surveillance & over-protection atmosphere there is.
I was shocked at a recent visit.
You are being protected to death! (even from yourselves)

On the bill I am with you - as usual governments introduce sweeping laws & regulations, some of which I suspect will never be enforced.

I absolutely respect copyright and buy only legal stuff.
But I would wish money would be spend educating people about why and how they should respect copyright, rather than in just punishing them afterwards (and as you say, even without any proof!).


Un-electable indeed!

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