Today two opposing newspaper advertisements have been placed regarding the Digital Economy Bill debate: one from the Open Rights Group, and one from the Creative Coalition Campaign. Here’s some things to consider:
- The Open Rights Group ad is not asking you to vote against the Bill. It is asking you to debate it thoroughly, as it has profound implications for how digital business is done in Britain.
- The Creative Coalition Campaign ad is asking you to vote “yes” to the Bill without a proper debate.
Some people have incorrectly painted the argument against the Digital Economy Bill as one perpetuated by illegal file-sharers. It’s not; most of us believe, as the Creative Coalition Campaign does, that piracy is wrong. However, we also believe in due process and the excellent principles which have formed the bedrock of British law for centuries.
The Internet is fast becoming an important medium for participating in society. The government recognizes this, and has sponsored its own UK Online centres, which aim to get more people online. More and more resources have been made available online, using excellent sites like Data.gov.uk, which aims to spark innovation using existing governmental data.
However, the Digital Economy Bill contains some clauses which may cause someone’s Internet access to be removed without due process, thereby disenfranchising them from these opportunities. It also contains further clauses which may block websites on a national level, which undermines the decentralized principle on which the Internet works, and brings British policy in line with China. Collectively, these clauses may make it difficult to run public Internet access points in places like coffee shops and universities, and put Internet businesses based in Britain at a distinct disadvantage to their equivalents in countries like the United States.
These are complex issues. The needs of rights-holders are important, and a clear message must be sent that piracy is wrong. However, by using such broad brush strokes to do so, we are in danger of undermining the Internet itself, disenfranchising voters, and turning British digital businesses into second-class citizens on the global stage. A debate is vital.
And millions of others.