Last chance to sink the Digital Economy Bill

Mar 15, 2010 18:44 · 633 words · 3 minute read #debill politics

Yes, it’s another Digital Economy Bill rant.

It’s passed the Lords, and is on the way to the Commons, where it _could _be rammed through with minimum scrutiny once the General Election is called.  That’s what the corporate interests that have drafted it want:

In this leaked, six-page email, Richard Mollet, the Director of Public Affairs for the British Phonographic Institute (the UK’s record-industry lobbyists), sets out the BPI’s strategy for ramming through the Digital Economy Bill, a sweeping, backwards reform to UK copyright law that will further sacrifice privacy and due process in the name of preserving copyright, without actually preserving copyright.

On the other hand, he identifies Members of Parliament as being “resigned” to the fact that they will not be allowed to debate the bill or give it “detailed scrutiny” (heck of a job, MPs!). He cites an expert on legislation as saying that the bill will likely die if MPs insist on their right and responsibility to examine this legislation in detail before voting on it.

There’s still one last chance to prevent this, if MPs do what MPs are supposed to do and hold the legislation up to some kind of scrutiny.   Time to hit WriteToThem - especially if you have a LibDem MP - and tell that’s what they should be doing.

This is my contribution, aimed at Nick Clegg.  Feel free to use something similar yourself :

Dear Mr Clegg,

I was heartened to see that the resolution regarding the Digital Economy Bill was overwhelmingly passed at the Spring Conference.  But despite the fact that the Liberal Democrats have woken up to the implications, the Bill is still a deeply flawed piece of legislation that is utterly skewed to the interests of big corporations, and will do irreparable damage to the real digital economy in the UK:

  • The Joint Committee on Human Rights has said that it is unable to rule on whether the Bill would be compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights without more detailed scrutiny. [1]

  • Speaking in the Lords, Lord Puttnam said “I am absolutely convinced that, within the next two or three years, there will be another bill before this house which will be created to deal with the deficiencies of the present bill.” [2]

  • According to a leaked memo, the BPI are relying on a lack of Parliamentary review to ensure that clauses which were drafted word-for-word by them become law. [3]

  • The statistics which form a central plank of the lobbyist arguments are demonstrably misleading. [4]

This Bill will do nothing for the digital economy, as it’s written entirely from the perspective of media conglomerates who are seeking to shore up outmoded business models that are rapidly being rendered obsolete by technology.  If their approach was taken back 100 years, the telegraph industry would be attempting to pass legislation that effectively outlawed the telephone.  It threatens the livelihoods of thousands of people like me who are making the most of new opportunities to make a healthy, legal and creative living through the internet.

That’s the view of everyone - and I really mean everyone - I know who works in the IT and internet industry, and there’s a growing groundswell of public opinion that shares this.

People’s faith in politics in the UK is an an all-time low, and it would be a travesty of the legislative process if a Bill this flawed was allowed to become law without scrutiny in a mad rush to clear the decks before the General Election.

I’m writing to ask that you and your fellow Liberal Democrats do not allow this Bill to pass without detailed scrutiny, and that Danny Alexander’s promise to do so [5] is kept.

Yours sincerely,

Tim Duckett

[1] http://www.out-law.com/page-10754

[2] http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2010/mar/02/digital-economy-puttnam

[3] http://www.boingboing.net/2010/03/12/leaked-uk-record-ind.html

[4] http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/jun/05/ben-goldacre-bad-science-music-downloads

[5] http://www.libdemvoice.org/danny-alexander-digital-economy-bill-18321.html