Digital Economy Bill

An email to Jo Johnson

I’m a little late to this one, but here’s the email I just sent to Jo Johnson, Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation.

Dear Jo Johnson MP,

I am concerned that the Digital Economy Bill will help copyright trolls threaten ordinary Internet users. The offences in the Bill should be made narrower so they do not include so many new people. Minor copyright infringement should not be punishable by 10 years in prison.

As a writer, I want to be fairly paid for the works I create. I do not want to punish anyone who is inspired by my work, whether they’re telling others about it- and potentially growing my fanbase- or creating fanfic or having fun with my ideas. As it stands, it appears the Bill could punish fans, one of the greatest resources a creator can have, excessively, up to potentially putting them in prison.

I urge you to change the Bill so that it will explicitly exclude low value copyright infringements and only be aimed at persistent and malicious offenders. Don’t punish the fans, go after the genuine pirates.


Ian Pattinson

Go to this page to send your own.

At least my MP voted against the Digital Economy Bill

John Leech, Liberal Democrat MP for Withington, explains why he voted against the Digital Economy Bill.

He has my support on May 6th, though I was going to vote for him anyway. I’ve started voting Green locally and Lib Dem nationally. Though, if the Lib Dems ever managed to get some form of proportional representation adopted for national elections I’d stop voting for them. (I just hope this doesn’t put them off).

I’d vote Green this time, but that might help Labour take Withington so I’m going tactical. Not even talking to Eddie Izzard would persuade me to vote Labour, but they’re welcome to send him round.

Correspondance on the Digital Economy Bill

I received this email from my MP last week-

Dear Mr Pattinson,

Thank you for getting in touch to make your views known on the Digital Economy Bill. I have received a vast number of complaints from constituents in the last few days expressing disapproval to the Bill. As I understand it, the Bill has been rushed and ill-conceived and although it contains some good points, it has been badly drafted, without thorough consideration. Moreover, it is disappointing that the Government seems intent on rushing the Bill through Parliament before it is dissolved.

The Digital Economy Bill is wide ranging and covers issues such as a new remit for Channel 4, the classification of computer games, plans for switchover to digital radio and the future of regional news on ITV as well as the issue of illegal downloading.

The Liberal Democrats support the creative industries and believe that many aspects of this Bill are vitally important to the continuing success of our radio, television and content industries.

We are also concerned about the financial implications of illegal downloading of copyright material and recognise the importance of protecting intellectual property.

A report published on 17th March 2010 predicted that a quarter of a million jobs in the UK’s creative industries could be lost by 2015 if current trends in online piracy continue.

Commenting on it, Brendan Barber, General Secretary of the TUC, said: “The results of the study stress that the growth of unauthorised file-sharing, downloading and streaming of copyrighted works and recorded performances is a major threat to the creative industries in terms of loss of employment and revenues. The scale of the problem is truly frightening now – let alone in the future if no firm actions against illegal file-sharing are taken.”

For these reasons we do believe that some action is needed and must form part of the Digital Economy Bill.

However, we have opposed – and defeated – government proposals (contained in Clause 17 of the original Digital Economy Bill) to give itself almost unfettered powers to act against copyright infringement.

Furthermore, as a result of debates instigated and amendments passed by the Liberal Democrats in the Lords, the government’s original proposals relating to illegal peer-to-peer file-sharing have been significantly improved.

As a result, no action to introduce “technical measures” (whether temporary account suspension, bandwidth throttling or whatever) can be introduced until;

1. soft measures (letter writing) have been used
2. an evaluation of their effectiveness has been undertaken
3. an evaluation of the need for, and likely effectiveness of, technical measures has been undertaken
4. further consultation has taken place
5. proposed legislation is brought before parliament for decision, and
6. there is an explicit assumption of innocence until proved guilty

The Liberal Democrats remain concerned by some aspects of the system for tackling peer-to-peer file-sharing being introduced in the Bill and will take further action in the Commons to scrutinise and improve the legislation. In particular, we are concerned that there will not be enough time for in-depth consultation on the initial code that Ofcom will draw up. We also feel that there is currently inadequate protection in the Bill for schools, libraries, universities and other businesses offering internet access to the public.

We are also unconvinced of the merits of the various technical measures that have been proposed, including bandwidth shaping and temporary account suspension. For this reason we have amended the Bill to ensure that any such measures cannot be introduced without proper consultation and not until evidence has been produced to prove that this is the best available option. We are further seeking to ensure that any measures brought before parliament will be subject to maximum scrutiny in both Houses and that it will be possible for changes to be made to them before a final decision is made.

We are urging the creative music, film and video games industries to work more vigorously to develop new business models which will make it easier and more affordable for people to legally access their products. We hope that this combined with “soft measures” and an effective education campaign will mean that further action will not be required.

We agreed at our Spring Conference last weekend to establish a working party to address these issues. With at least a year before there will be any attempt to introduce “technical measures”, this will provide an opportunity for the party to consider the outcome of research into the effectiveness of the early stages of the implementation of the legislation in the digital economy Bill.

The Bill has now completed all stages in the Lords but cannot proceed unless it has, as a minimum, been debated at a “Second Reading” in the Commons. We believe that many of the measures in the Bill that do not relate to illegal file sharing are important and must be allowed to go into law. However, in respect of those that relate to illegal file sharing we will not support them in the Commons if we are not satisfied that the procedures in place are fair and allow for full consultation and scrutiny before their introduction in the future.

I assure you that the Liberal Democrat Shadow Culture, Media and Sport team will make sure the Bill is debated thoroughly when it passes to the Commons and that Government attempts to rush it through will be blocked. It is essential that a Bill with such extensive provisions be debated and considered thoroughly.

Thank you for taking the time to get in touch.

Kind regards,

John Leech

Despite Mr Leech’s reassurances, it looks like the Liberal Democrats may not be prepared to debate the issue as thoroughly as needed. I hope the Open Rights Group have got the wrong impression and the Lib Dems are going to put some serious effort into opposing the bill.

Email your MP about the Digital Economy Bill

I just sent this email to my MP, John Leech-

Dear Mr Leech,

I wrote to you last week about an emergency motion to be discussed at the Liberal Democrats’ spring conference. The motion was passed unanimously and your party now stands against a key feature of the Digital Economy Bill. However, with the election imminent, the Government is planning to rush the Digital Economy Bill into law without a full Parliamentary debate.

If you followed the debate on the emergency motion you will know that the law is controversial and contains many measures that cause concern. The Bill deserves proper scrutiny so please don’t let the government push it through. Rather than helping, many people think it will damage schools and businesses as well as innocent people who rely on the internet because it will allow the Government to disconnect people it suspects of copyright infringement.

Industry experts, internet service providers and huge internet companies like Google and Yahoo are all opposing the bill- yet the Government seems intent on forcing it through without a real debate.

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 the democratic right to scrutiny and debate.


Ian Pattinson

It’s a variation on the message suggested here. There’s more information here (including a postcode lookup so you can find your MP).

Will the Liberal Democrats save the Internet?

I’ve not been following the Digital Economy Bill (DEB) as closely as I should. My opinion has probably been the same as most people’s- it’s not going to work, it’s going to make life harder for small businesses and individuals because it’s the corporations that have the lobbying power to get things done their way and there’s probably nothing I can do to prevent it.

But there are things I can do. My local MP is a Liberal Democrat, so I’m going to draw his attention to this emergency motion to be tabled at the Lib Dem Spring Conference over the weekend-

We welcome the stand of Liberal Democrat MEPs against web-blocking; specifically that, on 4 March 2010, Liberal Democrat MEPs helped the European Parliament to demand access to the negotiation texts of the secret, international Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) negotiations, which were condemned on 22 February 2010 by the European Data Protection Supervisor for endangering internet users’ fundamental rights.

We note with concern amendment 120a to the Digital Economy Bill which allows web-blocking for alleged copyright infringement and which was passed on 3 March 2010 with the support of Liberal Democrat and Conservative peers;

We reaffirm the Liberal Democrat constitution commitment: “We champion the freedom, dignity and well-being of individuals, we acknowledge and respect their right to freedom of conscience and their right to develop their talents to the full. We aim to disperse power, to foster diversity and to nurture creativity.”

We believe that this amendment to the Digital Economy Bill

a) would alter UK copyright law in a way which would permit courts to order the blocking of websites following legal action by rights-holders

b) would be open to widespread anti-competitive and civil liberties abuses, as the experience with similar web-blocking provisions in the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act illustrates

c) could lead to the closure of internet hotspots and open wifi operated by small businesses, local councils, universities, libraries and others

d) could have a chilling effect on the internet, freedom of expression, competition and innovation as Internet Service Providers take down and/or block websites to avoid facing the costs of legal action

e) may be illegal under the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and other EU law

We condemn

a) web-blocking and disconnecting internet connections

b) the threat to the freedom, dignity and well-being of individuals and businesses from the monitoring of their internet activity, the potential blocking of their websites and the potential termination of their internet connections.

c) the Digital Economy Bill for focusing on illegal filesharing rather than on nurturing creativity and innovative business models.

We support

a) the principle of net neutrality, through which the freedom of connection with any application to any party is guaranteed, except to address security threats or due to unexpected network congestion.

b) the rights of creators and performers to be rewarded for their work in a way that is fair, proportionate and appropriate to the medium.

Conference therefore opposes excessive regulatory attempts to monitor, control and limit internet access or internet publication, whether at local, national, European or global level.

We call for:

1. All publicly-funded publications to be freely accessible under a Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike licence.

2. Copyright legislation to allow fair use and to release from copyright protection works which are no longer available legally or whose authors cannot be identified.

3. A level playing field between the traditional, copyright-based business model and alternative business models which may rely on personal copying and legal filesharing.

Call 2 would have to be finessed a little. Some see the orphan works provision in the existing DEB as a licence for big media companies to plunder online archives for free material whilst paying far below market rate should the original author catch them. On the other hand, there’s a lot of material out there just begging to be rediscovered, and mashups are an artform in themselves. It’s a tricky one to get right, and I wouldn’t know where to begin.

There’s a Facebook group you can join to show support for this motion, and if you know the email address of a Lib Dem MP pass the link on.

via BoingBoing