The Digital Economy Bill was passed in the House of Commons last night, proving that the whole process is simply a fiasco. The #DEBill did what few bills can do: it made a lot of people care about politics, care about it enough to watch the live stream from the House of Commons last night and cause a stir on many blogs across the net. Why then, would such a bill which could be, quite frankly, dangerous, be rushed through without thorough scrutiny and debate?
It was painfully obvious that of the handful of MP’s present last night, many had no idea what the technicalities of the bill consisted of. Of those who did, the vast majority pointed out the real problems that the bill presents, and why it’s not going to be anywhere near as effective as is hoped. It was said that there is a target to remove illicit file sharing by 70%, which is an absolutely ridiculous over estimation of the results, and bypasses the problem completely. A large percentage of file sharers, as pointed out by many MP’s present, will be teenagers who can’t afford to purchase the content whether or not they have access to the material via P2P networks. Whatever percentage of file sharers the bill deters, and it won’t be anywhere even remotely close to 70%, it won’t have as big an impact on the revenues of the music and movie industry’s as is expected.
The fundamental problem is at the heart of the Bill, in that it doesn’t target the right people. It targets those sharing files already encoded and put out there for people to download. If the Bill was to seriously reduce illicit file sharing, it would have to do so by targeting those that make the content available. Isolating select few individuals that are unfortunate enough to be singled out isn’t going to begin solving the problem at hand.
The lack of thought that seems to have gone in to the whole process is rather worrying, and the consequences are such that instead of improving sectors of the economy, many sectors will likely suffer as a result. Not only are ISP’s going to begin losing a lot of money if everyone file sharing is disconnected (there are over six million pirates in the UK alone), but other sectors of the economy are going to be taking a hit too. If you ran an internet cafÃ©, would you risk losing your connection because one of your customers illegally downloaded a file without your knowledge? Of course you aren’t – why would you run a business that could have so many potential consequences? So much for UK broadband for all!
A clause which has been the centre of much attention is Clause 8, which allows the government to block websites that could be used to infringe copyright. This has provoked a response from Google, who have said in an official statement “The proposals to introduce website blocking – now included in Clause 8 – have escaped proper scrutiny”. Indeed, Google themselves could easily be used to infringe copyright, linking users to many P2P sites that host such content, as pointed out by Don Foster of the Lib Dems.
The statement went on to say “they were introduced 24 hours before a crucial vote in the House of Lords, without a full debate over whether such a policy is right in principle. We absolutely believe in the importance of copyright, but blocking through injunction creates a high risk that legal content gets mistakenly blocked, or that people abuse the system.”
John Hemming, also of the Liberal Democrats, cited WikiLeaks as another example that could be included under this clause. Such censoring of content on the net is abominable, and one can’t help but feel that the UK is slowly following the example of China’s censoring of the internet to prevent us from viewing information that should be free for all to view.
If anything has been proved by the events of the recent days and weeks, it’s that politics hasn’t changed, and will never change. There was strong opposition to the Digital Economy Bill from all three sides of the political spectrum, not to mention the thousands of letters written by citizens who are supposedly being represented by these politicians…yet the Bill was still passed by the countless number of MP’s who didn’t even take part in the debate, instead just turning up to ensure it was passed.
Despite the opposition from the public to the Digital Economy Bill, it has been rushed through the wash-up process with little attention and a blasÃ© attitude, anybody would think this has been very well timed, especially if you wanted to get legislation through would could eventually be used for censorship of the Internet and quite possibly that of free speech?
What with this combined with other legislation in the name of security and anti-terrorism, in the wrong hands, surely this could be abused to the point where the freedoms you currently take for granted are completely eroded away? Let’s hope there’s plenty of good people out there willing to do something to keep these things in check!
So is this goodbye to freedom of information? Ask me again in 12 months and I might be able to give you an answer…or not as the case may be!
Here’s some other good articles on what other people are thinking to this Digital Economy Bill (#DEBill) being passed…