The Digital Economy Bill: an open letter

March 17, 2010 | 4 comments

I’m interrupting my scheduled series of posts about social messaging, because this is important. (The final part should appear tomorrow.)

Here in the UK, the Digital Economy Bill looks like it’s set to be rushed through Parliament:

There’s plenty to oppose in the Digital Economy Bill, it gives the government the ability to disconnect millions. Schools, libraries and businesses could see their connection cut if their pupils, readers of customers infringe any copyright. But one group likes it, the music industry. In a leaked memo a few days ago they admitted the only way to get the bill through would be to rush it through without a real parliamentary debate. Let’s stop that happening.

According to the Open Rights Group, there have even been questions about the Bill’s compatibility with the Human Rights Act.

The following is a letter I wrote to my MP, Andrew Smith. If you’re a British resident, I recommend you do the same (Boing Boing has a sample letter, but generally it’s a good idea to avoid form letters if you can).

Dear Andrew Smith,

I’m very worried that the Government is planning to rush the Digital Economy Bill into law without a full Parliamentary debate. Despite claims made by the BPI and others, I believe it will have dire consequences for British businesses, and therefore for the economy as a whole.

In short, the Digital Economy Bill provides the mechanism to arbitarily remove anyone’s freedom to communicate – their Internet connection, and potentially access to their website or servers – without due process. This will immediately put us on an uneven footing with countries such as the United States, who are already well ahead of us in terms of digital business. If Britain is to remain competitive in the digital world, this must not go ahead.

This is not to say that piracy should be allowed. It is undeniably a criminal act. However, for an issue that has become so culturally ingrained that it requires precise tactics to undo, these measures are unsubtle and counterproductive.

At the very least, a proper Parliamentary debate must be had.

As a constituent I am writing to you today to ask you to do all you can to ensure the Government doesn’t just rush the bill through and deny us our democratic right to scrutiny and debate. As a digital professional, I would be delighted to help with any questions you might have.

Kind regards,

Ben Werdmuller
ben@benwerd.com

Want to read the Bill for yourself? Here it is.

Related entries

4 Comments

  1. I’ve sent my own, personalised, wordier version of that to my own MP, letting him know in no uncertain terms that I will not be voting for him if he votes in favour of this Bill.

    David March 17, 2010 (2:33 pm)
  2. It’s an election issue, and any party that supports the bill will lose the sizeable tech vote.

    I’ve written a fair amount about this already which I won’t repeat here, but suffice it to say it’s a very bad bill which is being pushed by lobbyists for an industry too lazy to innovate.

    There is not a crisis in the music/film/picture/whatever industry, the demand is there, but the thanks to a technical innovation the entrenched players are finding their business model isn’t working anymore.

    Cry me a river. Build a bridge, and get over it.

    All this will be over in a few years, and the winners will be the ones who embrace the new realities and adapt their businesses to capitalise on it. What we must do is make sure we aren’t left with crippling and dangerous laws and regulation as a legacy.

    Laws which make the UK an unattractive place to run a business, and a place where copyright law is used to introduce a comprehensive and authoritarian system of control and state censorship by the back door.

    Suffice it to say, this is a bad bill and should dismissed. Unfortunately there is a real danger that it will be passed without scrutiny due to a bug in the UK political system.

    Write to your MP!

    Marcus Povey March 18, 2010 (1:45 am)
  3. Three cheers and amen to that. I watched Panorama shaking my head in disbelief the other night at the sheer entrenchment of attitudes. That said, the fact that on one hand you had Scouting for Girls and on the other members of Pink Floyd and Radiohead probably spoke louder than the words.

    As Marcus says, there is no crisis for artists. The crisis is with the industries that have been built on the artists’ backs. As a writer I’m rather tired of protectionism allegedly carried out for my protection.

    Dan Holloway March 19, 2010 (11:07 pm)
  4. Did you ever get a reply from Andrew Smith? His Lib Dem opponent at the next election is very much against the bill:

    http://www.oxfordeastlibdems.org.uk/news/000265/digital_economy_bill_is_a_disaster_for_internet_rights_and_civil_liberties.html

    Richard April 9, 2010 (10:13 am)

Leave a comment