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