Open Rights Group flashmob serves disconnection notice on UK Music #DEBill

DEBill flashmob at UK Music
Filmmaker Obhi Chatterjee, one of the team behind the Lib Dem Spring Conference emergency motion on Freedom, creativity & the internet, describes the experience:

It was while following #DEBill on Twitter on the train that, with just over an hour to go, we discovered where we had to be at 12:15. In front of London’s Dominion Theatre, near Tottenham Court Road. Bring a police helmet and clipboard if poss.

My father had struggled to understand how we could have left home knowing only that we had to be in central London at a certain time. We had aimed for Trafalgar Square.

I recognised Open Rights Group‘s Executive Director, Jim Killock, from his Facebook photo. A few people were distributing imitation police helmets and clipboards. A journalist was asking people why they were there.

The sheet on the clipboard explained what we had to do and where we had to go: the Soho offices of UK Music, a short walk away.

Once there, we were to wander up and down outside the building, looking officious. Perhaps everyone was too good-humoured and smiling a bit too much for that.

Still, there were quite a few photographers and video cameras around to record the event.

Staff heading out of the building for lunch didn’t seem to be very conversational. I can’t imagine they mistook us for MI5 …

In any case, UK Music obviously wasn’t taking any chances. A few minutes after posting two security guards inside the glass entrance doors, they shut the outer wooden doors on the group.

Jim Killock donned a cardboard mask to send up UK Music chief Feargal Sharkey. Someone else from the group then proceeded to serve the mock disconnection notice on him.

The closed doors provided a fitting backdrop to the photo opportunity with the ‘Disconnection denies our rights’ banner and everyone wearing police hats, including my father. (Personally, I think he was having a bit too much fun to look like a serious policeman, though.)

Everyone seemed to be surprised that UK Music felt it had to shut its doors to what seemed to me to be a well-educated, non-violent group, rather than engage in a debate. But then if they and their partners don’t want Parliament to look too closely at what they have convinced some politicians to put into the Digital Economy Bill, what chance did this group of ordinary people have in front of their offices?

Obhi’s father, Jayanta Chatterjee, adds:

Remarkably, some politicians claim that the Digital Economy Bill is open to new business models. Such models don’t grow on trees. For example, it took a lot of research to come up with the business model for our feature film Shyama, its soundtrack album and the related book. All are open to personal copying and peer-to-peer file-sharing to allow the film to maximise its reach among its target audience.

In my view, the Digital Economy Bill could kill off the internet, were it ever to become law with all its website-blocking, internet-disconnection and copyright provisions. The web-based business models now used by many freelance authors, creators, photographers and artists, who form much of the creative economy, could die with it.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Am not sure you realise how utterly silly you all look, similar to those awful Tory stunts that give politics a bad name and alienate people when they wear cheaply made cardboard cutout masks of *insert name of cabinet minister* to get across a point. Plus, isn’t impersonating a police officer somekind of minor offence anyway?

  • Me thinks the joke was on someone else not UK Music.


  • Well done, What is happening to the DEbill in the washup ?
    The chief whip put out a email saying the Libdems were going to oppose the bill .
    But since then The Policy statement that appeared in the Libdem Huddle is equivocal to say the least.

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