Lib Dems move to clip Mandelson’s power over copyright

The Digital Economy Bill currently going through Parliament would give Peter Mandelson huge powers to rewrite the country’s copyright laws in future – and all without much in the way of Parliamentary scrutiny or checks and balances.

But Liberal Democrat peer Tim Clement-Jones has tabled an amendment to the Digital Economy Bill to delete the controversial Clause 17.

He’s said:

This clause would give the Government carte-blanche to change all copyright law relating to the internet as and when they please.

Such powers are unnecessary and over-reaching and we have tabled an amendment to delete Clause 17.

Good news.

Whilst the Parliamentary Party’s approach seems to the Digital Economy Bill seems to be leaning heavily in favour of the music industry overall (e.g. not pushing the music industry to update its licensing practices to reflect wider technological developments in the way that we regularly expect of other sectors), it’s good that concerns about overweening central government power and civil liberties are coming through strongly in the party’s approach.

So, for example whilst Don Foster said in July 2008, “The only way the music industry can deal with this in the long-term is to do a lot more to promote legal downloading websites through low prices and innovative products”, more recently the party has highlighted only the stick side of what should be a balance of carrot and stick. Both on the party’s main website and in an internal news summary reporting on Tim Razzall’s speech in the Lords on the Digital Economy Bill, the message was only about needing to crack down on downloading/sharing.

It looks as if the very extensive lobbying campaign run by those parts of the music industry who want lots of stick and nearly no carrot has been having an impact on the party’s approach.

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  • According to Lord Razzall the Lib Dems welcome the bill. According to Mark Park, it’s a “mistake”. Mark blames the Lib Dem position on lobbyists, effectively claiming the party to be corrupt because they’ve taken a view other than his! I thought Irfan was a wildcard, but actually Mark has a more subtle and subversive approach to undermining the parties core value.

    There is nothing liberal about stealing other peoples copyrighted works.

    No matter how many times Mark tells you it’s OK, it really isn’t. Mark, you are in a small political minority that argues for “free” (by Chris Anderson), freetards and doesn’t appear to grasp copyright as a whole. That’s your prerogative, but in the meantime there’s the future of the economy at stake, so I wouldn’t be shocked that right-minded people have grasped the debate, and taken a view contrary to your own.

    If you’re that disgusted at Lib Dem support for the Digital Economy bill there’s always a party for you, “The Pirate Party” – Andrew would be really pleased to have you aboard. In the meantime, please demonstrate which lobbyists had an impact on who!? This idea you’re floating here that Lib Dem MP’s don’t know their own mind and are puppets of lobbyists is an extremely serious charge you’ve made against the party – let’s hear your source for such a severe allegation.

    Read Mark’s prior insanity on filesharing here :
    ..but :

  • You’d think that disconnection without trial would trigger some liberal sense of fairness somewhere in our Parliamentarians, but on the whole it would seem not…

    If people are concerned about this (and you really should be – see Open Rights Group’s briefing notes to the Lords), you can write to a Lord and encourage them to oppose the Bill.

    Quite apart from Clause 17, this bill could see the deathknell of public Internet access in libraries, right at the time when Gordon Brown is trying to move all public services online…

  • Andrew Suffield 14th Dec '09 - 7:34pm

    Well, it’s a start. I’m still concerned over the lack of activity from the party on this issue, though. The bill as it stands is a joke – in the first year when the media companies are actually making their full catalogs available on the internet, with internet sales rising exponentially (seriously – doubling every three years), they are coming to the government looking for a handout (this bill is not about “cracking down” – they can already sue people if they want – it’s about the media companies not having to pay to do it). Labour is proposing to give them everything they asked for, at the expense of every taxpayer and internet user in the country – why exactly are they being allowed to get away with it?

    To remind people: there has been no investigation into the issue or any evidence that a real problem exists – the government has done two general reviews of copyright as a whole, but neither of them actually looked into file sharing specifically. In both cases, they simply took statements from media industry representatives that claimed some large (debunked) numbers and demanded something be done (and the reviews reported these statements accurately). Academic research into the issue overwhelmingly comes down on the side of “this is complex and not what the media companies claim”. The media companies themselves have never published any evidence, they just go around repeating the same unsubstantiated claims about “lost income” and “jobs at risk”.

    This whole thing has been manufactured by a very well-funded marketing department, spending other people’s money and trampling on civil liberties in order to gain a fairly modest increase in profits. It wouldn’t even be good for the economy, as all projections indicate the total cost of enforcement will be larger than the potential profit, and small operators will actually lose money. We should not be doing this.

  • Andrew Suffield 15th Dec '09 - 11:11am

    in the meantime there’s the future of the economy at stake

    Yes. The issue there being:

    Should we spend £350m on enforcement in order to give some rich businesses a £200m increase in revenue?

    I am curious why you think “right-minded people” (I presume you mean right-wing here) would be in favour of this. It would be more efficient to just give the media companies a £300m tax bribe to go away and stop meddling in politics – they’d get more money, and we would spend less.

    (Detailed background on the numbers available from ORG)

    Rather than responding in detail to the opinions of this self-proclaimed advocate of everybody who ever created any content, I think it would be more interesting to consider the detailed objections of a world-renowned, Hugo-award-winning British author who really would like to be able to distribute some of his work for free, and is not at all happy about other people’s attempts to stop him from doing so or punish his readers for it.

    There is no consensus among the content creators here. There’s just a small number of large, well-funded and predominately American companies who are shouting very loudly, and general media disinterest in the smaller players who are saying “No, actually, we don’t want this”.

  • Krz makes a number of fallacious points. There’s the obvious fallacy of copyright violation being the same as theft (which requires the original “owner” to be deprived of something), or even the same as piracy (which tends to involve boats). But most importantly, there’s the false dichotomy that being opposed to the Digital Economy Bill is directly equivalent to supporting copyright violation. There are many people opposed to the DEB who aren’t illegal filesharers, who prefer to acquire their digital media through legal means.

    As somebody who fileshares free software, music and video which is redistributable with the consent of the copyright holder, I’m personally concerned that I will end up having my Internet connection (an important part of doing my job) disconnected through an administrative error or misunderstanding. While I do have a right to petition my disconnection under the Bill, I’d rather there were a proper process in place beforehand.

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