Don’t rush the Digital Economy bill.

Today the controversial “Digital Economy Bill” will get a brief second reading in the house of commons in order that it can be rushed through in the parliamentary “mop up procedures” and become law.

That the Bill is being rushed through is hugely controversial, given some of the fundamental changes it introduces. On the one hand you have the BPI (Recording Industry Association) and the Trade Union led Creative Coalition Campaign calling for a speedy introduction. On the other hand there is a broad coalition of activists campaigning against the bill such as The Open Rights group and 38 Degrees calling for it to be delayed to allow proper consultation and debate.

I think it is clear that the Digital Economy is going to become an increasingly important part of how “UK PLC” operates. The creative industries, particularly in respect of Film, Music, Software are vital to the economy and to our ways of life.

Further our working lives and our home lives and influenced massively by the internet, online communications and distribution. And I also think it is fair comment to say that our legislative framework does not properly reflect the changes that the internet has bought.

The problem is, in my opinion, that the current legislation appears to be rushed, unbalanced and written principally to further the specific needs of the “industry” without taking proper consideration of the needs of society (it is a Peter Madelson project after all…).

Copyright is a settlement designed to balance the needs of society to use and enjoy creative work, against the legitimate need of those who create to make a living from doing so. As such getting this balance right is really important.

That settlement, getting the balancing act right, is really important if we want to tackle issues around copyright and piracy. In order for there to be public confidence in the system people have to feel it is fair. Provisions for who people use copyrighted stuff, how they can share it, what constitutes “fair use” are really fundamental to a fair settlement and one that will be broadly respected.

Therefore it is outrageous, in my humble opinion, that this legislation is being rushed through. It needs careful consideration and to be properly debated by *elected* legislators, and not to be just nodded through on the “never, never”.

Some of the provisions in the bill around cutting of peoples are just fundamentally unfair and unworkable. And it really raises questions about justice if these things can happen without people being taken  through any kind of fair, or independent, judicial process. Put bluntly I do not trust elected politicians or the corporate interests of the recording industry to do this right or fairly.

There needs to be a new copyright settlement in the UK that takes proper consideration of the way digital technologies are disrupting traditional business models. This has to put allowing creative people to make a living from their profession at its heart, as we all benefit from proper creative industries.

But it has to do this in a way that is fair to society, and any provisions to deal with copyright fraud simply have to follow fair due process. The digital economy bill is flawed, rushed, and predicated on “special interest”, it should not pass in this way.


06. April 2010 by Ralph Ferrett
Categories: Activism, Web and Technology | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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