‘Save the Net’ emergency motion submitted … now what?

Bridget Fox (PPC Islington South & Finsbury), Julian Huppert (PPC Cambridge) and filmmaker Obhi Chatterjee write:

Several of us have submitted an emergency motion on Freedom, creativity & the internet for the Spring Conference. It concerns an issue which affects the daily lives of almost everyone on which the party appears to have no defined or consistent policy: the internet. A BBC poll shows that 75% of UK adults think access to the internet should be a fundamental right of all people.

Our Parliamentary DCMS (Department of Culture, Media and Sport) Team has been doing a great job tackling the worst effects of Digital Economy Bill and has promised to continue to do this. But Tory-imposed amendment 120a is not good enough. PPCs have been receiving emails from many people refusing to vote Lib Dem over it and we’ve seen the longest thread ever on this website as Lib Dem members struggle to reconcile it with their LibDem and personal values.

Our emergency motion tries to put this right by clarifying our Lib Dem values in this complex area, upholding the rights of internet users, creators and performers, and strengthening our Parlimentarians’ mandate to stand for freedom. Now we need your help to make sure it is both selected for debate and adopted at conference.

How you can help

  • We’ve started a ‘Lib Dems Save the Net’ group in Facebook. Please join it and invite your friends/supporters to join it.
  • If you’re on Twitter, tweet “#ldsavenet Lib Dems push to save Net from UK #debill http://bit.ly/cpRNli“.
  • If you’re not on Twitter, you should be. Open a free account now and submit this message.
  • If you are a PPC and support the motion, add this logo to your website, and link it to the Facebook group. Don’t forget to tell your local press contacts that your policy on the internet and the Digital Economy Bill is expressed in the description of this group.

We firmly believe that the LibDems are the only mainstream party in the UK to have the ethical integrity to champion the cause of freedom, creativity and the internet. Grassroots activism has been fundamental to our party’s existence for decades. LibDems work in the same way as the internet: empowering individuals.

Liberal Democrats have liberal values and Liberal Democrats are democratic.

Let’s prove it!

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Tony Greaves 10th Mar '10 - 7:24pm

    It seems to me that you are all crackers and this posting just proves it.

    Perhaps someone can explain why the internet is different from the rest of society?

    Tony Greaves
    (And I will not join Facebook or Twitter both of which seem to me to be a disaster for humanity!)

  • Sadly, he just doesn’t get it.

  • Iain Coleman 10th Mar '10 - 11:14pm


    These young people and their skiffle bands, eh?

  • >It’s about diversity, it’s about freedom, it’s about us!

    No, it’s about the Digital Economy of Great Britain and Northern Island, it isn’t about “us” at all.

    I didn’t want to get drawn, but seriously people, Tony is right. How do you think all the things around you happened? It wasn’t by having no penalties for copying peoples works, you’re proposing we should be weak on the digital black market, which can only damage our economy. It’s the livelihood of normal people that you’re waving pitchforks at, and mistaking it for big media. In reality, big media now is the ISPs more than the music companies. Regarding the “real world”, imagine if you’d applied your logic to printing, for example; people would no longer be discouraged from printing money. It’s just a bit unhinged.

    The reason nobody is arguing with you any more is that this kind of thing is surely bad form during an election campaign? Thing are going pretty good, but this is a very thorny issue that we’ve had years to bash out. You can tell the new Gravesham PPC why her position is so wrong on this issue, I see she has done a piece for GQ seemingly in favour of the bill.

    In 10 days time a friend of mine is releasing a digital product, an application in a specialised field. It took us 3 months to design and make, he’s spent about 5 years on the maths prior to that (part-time) and we believe it is an advancement on everything that comes before it in its field – everything you claim to want to protect. We will hopefully sell a few, but mostly it will be pirated, and UK law (and no resources) mean we are powerless to stop it. We have nothing but DMCA notices as protection, and that is, once again, what we will do, every day, for the next 2 years, until we give up the fight. If we DMCA hosts we will roughly double our sales, it doesn’t stop filesharing, but it does help a bit and it could be the difference between breaking even and losing money.

    Many times in development we questioned whether it was really worth it, now every time I see the name Bridget Fox I think the same thing about politics. I find it very difficult to accept that you don’t understand how I, and many other people (including Lib Dem PPCs) feed our families, and whilst I try to keep Tony’s lighthearted view on this, I am somewhat repulsed…although the patronising bit was very funny.

    This is why we can’t have nice things. That’s it from me until after the election, I’ve been itching but resisted until now; we all know nothing heals properly if you keep picking at it. Back to biting tongue.

  • Dave Gamble 12th Mar '10 - 2:15pm

    As Krz’s friend, I can confirm what he says. Although he’s been very generous in how long I’ve worked on it for… he likes to make me appear much speedier than I am. I haven’t had a day off in months.

    I think of myself very much as a traditional craftsman, because the people who trained me in my field were, and I build tools for professionals to use. During the course of my career, as has happened for many people in this age, the tools used by the industry moved from the physical world to the virtual world, simply because this is more efficient for them. As a toolsmith I have to strongly endorse anything that makes the user’s life better; that’s what I do.

    Whilst I am intimately familiar with the importance of personal liberty, I’m also intimately familiar with the practice of refining things until they work. Scrapping the bill is childish. Those of you who patronise and claim that people aren’t living in the modern world are seemingly blind to the actual nature of modern industry. To claim that the work of a craftsman has no value simply because the work can be duplicated is ignorant and disrespectful to those of us who form the mainstay of the British economy. If I was a carpenter, there’d be no confusion. Those of you who patronise should appreciate that industries and demands HAVE changed. Not everything is, or should be, a service. Is a chair a service? Not every business is primarily a means to generate advertising revenue. Should a chair advertise?

    To give you a nice insight into what you’ll actually achieve by banning the bill, let me tell you about the dominant player in my industry. Since piracy is rife for any kind of distributed software, and since they do have a fair amount of money, they literally hired private investigators to go out and find people using their software illegally, and then sue.
    Personally, I find this somewhat abhorrent, but the point I’d like you to take from this is this:

    Those with money will find ways to defend themselves.
    Those of us starting out can never get anywhere, since our focus is (and rightly should be!) on our industry, and not on self-defense.

    Scrapping this bill will keep the rich companies (who you assume it will protect) rich, and leave the rest of us with no freedom for innovation or entrepreneurship. It’s the little guy who needs help, and with the right work this bill can help the little guy. The big guys will take care of themselves. They always do.



  • Dave Gamble 12th Mar '10 - 2:18pm

    Relevant info:
    If my line of business fails, I’ll be designing products as a contractor for foreign companies who do have laws to protect their work.
    Hopefully that clarifies how you’re threatening “British” innovation?

  • Dave Gamble 12th Mar '10 - 3:47pm

    Before the ad-hominem begins, I’m 28, and an avid reader of Spolsky, Gladwell, Godin and Rappaille.



  • Tom Thomson 12th Mar '10 - 5:41pm

    What on earth do the proposer and seconder think they are doing advocating a policy of support for that discredited concept, net neutrality? That really is asking for the tragedy of the commons to to render the internet unusable – data throughput capacity is a comsumable resource, not a public good where one person’s use does not sutract from what remains available for others to use.

    The amendment is awful, but has exactly nothing to say about net neutrality. So why on earth does the emergency motion introduce that? It can only distract from the business at hand, which should be to ensure that the bill is so modified as to provide good strong protection for rights holders without unduly penalising the man in the middle (the ISP) and without handing to the dinosaurs a means by which they can easily shut down websites which are not in fact violating anyone’s rights.

    Although I hate the amendment in its current form, I suspect I’m closer to Krm and Dave Gamble than I am to the drafters’ position. And of course I agree 100% with Tony Greaves about Twitter and Facebook.

  • i think to a certain extent many of you are ‘crackers’ for being so naive. Copyright is being abused every day by the “small and innocent” and the the isp’s; who have made millions out of illegal copyright, which they say they cannot control. shutting the pipes of limewire, bitcomet, etc is the only way forward and for digital watermarks to be fully utilised. if the public cannot be trusted to not adhere to copyright law….then tough measures are needed. This age old argument of the ‘human rights’ tack is an incredibly stupid path to take. We have allowed the likes of itunes to ruin the music industry and we need to act quick to save or creative society who purely want paid a fair market rate for all of their hard work.

    And lastly slagging off our judiciary is not clever. The systems in this country are far from the backward and barbaric autonomies of China and Iran

  • God you’re a geek Dave, you really are. What was the reading bit about?

    Thanks to the others, it’s good to know that some people are thinking this topic through sensibly and coming up with a middle ground, which I always thought was the point of the party. The problem I, and any Lib Dem that makes digital products, face today :

    Why would you vote, support or campaign for a party that threatens your livelihood, and that of your social group? A party that seems to have no position on protecting rights holders, but plenty of protections against them, during a recession. A party that believes ISPs have no responsibility for the content they carry, and that no website should be blocked from the internet. That people aren’t responsible for what happens in their own home and that a temporary internet suspension after 3 letters equates to a removal of basic human rights.

    This is an extremely deep problem for me, I’ve never had to consider it before, but…wife/kid/reality, you know?

    It’s all so third party politics. You couldn’t possibly advocate anti-industry policy such as this in the main two parties, by virtue of their positions. Until we’re shown workable changes (as opposed to vague buzzwords), this stuff reads like madness to me.

    When the “Longtail” makes everything “Free” with GoogleAds everything will be OK. It’s not removing money from the UK and moving it to America or making us corporate slaves at all, it’s actually freeing us. By paying a big corporation £15 a month to take the work of creatives we’re really making things much fairer. I actually rather like advertising, it brightens up web pages, makes life online much more exciting and it often serves me useful adverts for lingerie that I avail myself of. Facebook and Google have never had any privacy breaches, so I feel pretty safe giving them the workings of my life. Now everyone can get the latest tracks for nothing people are putting a lot more time into albums, that’s why music is so much better now. Software should be available under Fair Use laws, because then it wouldn’t cost as much to own a computer, etc, etc. IT’S MY HUMAN RIGHT TO TAKE YOUR STUFF FOR FREE! DAMN YOU FOR MAKING IT!!

    I know I said I wouldn’t comment again until after the election, but that was back when I still had some faith in the party. Now I’m not so bothered about the outcome. You’ve just lost a bunch of activists in a marginal – we’ll make sure we tell our MP and friends why….all this just as it was all going so well…

  • “Krz: if you listen to the debate (Alex posted up a podcast of it), the second speech is from someone whose work from which he earns money has been frequently pirated online – but he explains why he supports the motion.”

    He does – but that doesn’t address Krz’s point about whether people who’s rights are infringed should have no remedy.

    There is an undercurrent to this debate of “why should I pay for stuff when I can get it (illegally) for free” which is really pretty illiberal.

  • Hi Mark, can you correct me just to make sure I understand correctly:
    – debill enforced traditional British copyright law on the internet, but needed work to ensure no abuse.
    – party believes that copyright holders should be forced to develop “innovative new ways for customers to access content legally”
    – party has moved to scrap debill

    = Lib Dems have decided that all business must be conducted following innovative (currently nonexistent) new models
    = No protection for current businesses.

    So let’s see the outcome of that:
    1) We’re going to reduce internet crime by making everything on the internet legal
    2) We’re going to sit and wait for a big company with sufficient marketing resources to show us all the way
    3) I (personally), and other developers of software which BY ITS NATURE must be distributed using the existing models of business, have no support from your party.

    Yes, I did listen to the podcast.
    Your chap speaking about how he’s been ripped off is a dreadful example. Let’s be clear of that. If his primary income was from the works he hadn’t been paid for, one wonders how he afforded to get to the conference.
    He’s not the little guy. I am. You’ve made it patently clear that you lack the empathy to comprehend my position.

    I have to be clear that I HATE the fact that you are forcing me to vote conservative, but you appear to have left me with no choice.

    Would it really have been impossible to just put in more work to amend the bill?

  • Mark,

    Of course big internet business is opposed to it – it makes them responsible for what’s carried on their pipes and they don’t want to block content when that’s how they make money, by allowing people to take the fruits of our work for free. Plus, they have to bear part of the cost; it’s not a shock they don’t want it.

    Regarding the guy you refer to – the only person claiming direct personal experience – as has been pointed out, it’s really not the same thing. I assume he got paid for scoring the TV series, so it really wasn’t his primary revenue stream…as it is for most digital content creators. He also said the internet was : “scary and dangerous and sometimes, like me, you get ripped off, but that’s the price you pay for the excitement of it all. Last week my computer got a trojan horse”…etc. That’s the future you’re offering us – sounds awesome, why didn’t you include that in the bill?

    As Dave said, you’ve done a top job of protecting big businesses like Google, Yahoo and the ISPs, what are you going to do for UK independent digital content creators? We pay taxes, when we make money. If we can’t protect our product, we can’t make cash, government don’t get the tax, someone else has to pay…I suppose at the very least you’re trying to take us out of taxation!


    Please don’t vote Dave. He is a twat (hopefully you’ll all be liberal enough to allow that) and it’ll rub off on you. I understand how you feel – I’ve never been in a position where the Tories offer me better economic protection before…truthfully, not sure what to do on that front now, but surely not Dave, you’ve always got a choice on that. What do you do when your party attacks the way you and your friends make a living?

  • Incidentally, Mark, didn’t you find it at all disconcerting that everyone said the same things? Surely in proper policymaking there would be some disagreement, but listening to the SPEECHES you’ve posted (because I heard NO DEBATE – where was this debate of which you speak?), there is an eerie consensus, a complete lack of any other perspective. Let’s face it, nothing was said, it was all very superficial and poorly articulated anecdotes about how crazy the internet is, how we should all love it and keep it free. I heard nothing regarding the state of individual sectors of the UK digital economy and their development. I don’t think I even heard any discussion of the substance of your policy proposal, you not think that pertinent? I noticed you all chose not to mention us, the people you’re disempowering. That was your idea of a debate on the UK’s digital economy? Really?

    I urge everyone to listen to the audio, so you understand what level of” debate” is being proffered; all I heard was one side of the coin, reconstituted ad infinitum to varing degrees of quality. Very bizarre, it’s as if you got a bunch of people together and just boshed this one through. If there was a debate, can we have the audio from it?

  • Hey Mark,

    Your silence speaks volumes. No debate? Footage?

    That really was it. Please people, listen to his audio and tell me that was enough detail for a debate on the future of our economy.

    You keep telling us why third parties think you’re right, but you never engage with how you see it working yourself. You can’t explain how current UK digital businesses could survive without DMCA, how we should conduct our day to day business with no protections. You have no answers or justifications, which makes it all the more shocking that you’ve proceeded as you have. You know as well as I do that a photographer and the soundtrack guy are shoddy examples, as neither rely on digital content as primiary revenue – you should of asked, because we know a lot of serious digital content creators, in many different fields and of varying size. That might of given you the start of a debate.

    Had you of got someone that actually owns a digital content business, you might of had a speaker that spoke with some knowledge of the subject; for example Anna Arrowsmith, plus I expect she knows a few people – you could of had an actual debate instead of just getting your uncle to tell us how wild the internet is, but why it should be free all the same. When will you start to address this issue in a liberal and pragmatic way? Why have you offered nothing at all to rights holders?

    Trouble rides a fast horse.

  • Hey Mark

    How do you make out your reply in any way addressed Hywels point? You don’t have an answer, you’ve made it abundantly clear that you don’t have a working economic model in your head. If you want I’ll transcribe what that OST guy said, because it’s actually pretty funny and completely undermines your argument.

    So there’s a photographer and the TV OST guy – I really meant someone whose primary product is digital. Your examples are people just saying “I get ripped off, and it’s OK” – I’m glad they don’t mind, I have a wife and kid – bills to pay, I’d be sweeping the road if I took that attitude and our economy would crumble. What point are you trying to make with these illustrations? They seem to further weaken your already tepid case as to why we don’t need a Digital Economy Bill.

    You really don’t see the distinction do you? Let me explain again, Daves product is 100% digital – I make CD’s and vinyl too, but he is completely digital. It’s not photography and it’s not TV soundtracks, it’s DSP coding, and if you look around you’ll find that he’s one of the most respected dev’s in his field; yet you offer him absolutely nothing. No reason to stay in the UK, no reason to vote Lib Dem, plenty of reasons to vote Tory.

    How is Dave going to make cash without a DMCA campaign on a digital only product? Practically, how could the digital businesses of the UK survive with what you’ve proposed? Should they keep relying on DMCA because their own government offers them no protection?

    How is the UK going to survive without Dave’s?

    You’re waving your fists at small UK digital business and protecting Google, eBay, Yahoo! and the ISPs from any responsibility. What you’ve proposed is a death warrant for our countries economy, made up by people that seemingly have little economic/industry experience in what they’re talking about and pushed forward by a lobby of people that don’t really believe in IP at all.

  • Tom Thomson 15th Mar '10 - 1:01pm

    I’m finding this discussion pretty appalling. We seem to have two bunches of nutcase ideologues screaming at each other, neither listening to anything the other side says, both advocating illeberal nonsense.

    Krz, is it possible for you to recognise that a very large number of DMCA notices in the USA are disputed, and that the DMCA has some provisions for handling these disputes, and that the DMCA makes NO provision at all for blocking sites, and the the Lords’ amendment fails completely to live up even to the already rather low, since clearly biased in favour of those who want takedown, standards set by DCMA? Or that we have had in Engl;and and Wales since 1988 perfectly adequate provisions for blocking copyrighted content, which have proper safeguards against abuse built in, and that the Lords’ amendment throws that away to replace it with something with no effective safeguard against abuse that simply ensures that ISPs will drop sites on demand because they can’t afford to start opposition to a request for an injunction before they’s had a chance to look at the case and that chance will not be provided until they see the other side’s evidence presented in court? Or that the unamended bill retained the takedown system and abolished the 1988 safeguards, to leave the UK with the most draconian takedown law in the Western world, as well as allowing anyone to have internet access denied (which in many cases means denying them the means of earnig a living) without any chance to challenge claims of abuse of copyright or even see the evidence against them? And that given these faults the bill needed changing, but the amendment has in fact made it no better?

    Mark and others. can you not recognise that people with copyright in something need to be protected by a real law with some teeth in it and some prospect of actually achieving real protection, and a nice armwaving phrase recognising those rights but offerieng no means of enforcement just doesn’t cut it, so the emergency motion is fatally flawed in that respect?

    Why on earth can you not all work together to get it right, instead of shouting at each other like a bunch of spoiled children?

  • Hey Tom

    I do recognise most of the things you say (apart from the “internet access denied” bit – which has never been part of the DEB, it’s just a rumour perpetuated by the illiterate), my argument was completely practical – it was about how digital businesses currently survive day to day in the UK. When you send people takedown notices that cites UK law, they’re generally ignored; a properly formatted DMCA request is roughly 95% effective within a 24 hour period (some Russians don’t care what you send them) – it’s simply a matter of practicalities and time. Small businesses can’t afford large legal fights, we just grab the best tools to hand and DMCA is the only tool that seems to work. Its shortcomings, or technicalities rarely occur to us, because we can’t actually use it – it’s an empty threat, but the only one that works consistently. I understand the bill seeks to change some of the CDPA, but they’re mainly practical changes that have been brought forward as the result of case law, or to reflect new technology (like the inclusion of “e-books” and “audio books”).

    I completely agree that there are faults in the bill – I’m arguing because the motion says LibDems don’t agree in the bill at all, without providing any alternatives.

    I think I’m pretty liberal on this issue, I don’t mind people stealing my copyrighted works as long as I have a right to ask hosts to take them down, I think that blocking sites should only happen in extreme cases, where the site owners repeatedly refuse to act (50 consecutive times seemed more than reasonable to me) or the content abuses the human rights of others, such as child porn, snuff videos, etc, which I see the motion now conceptually protects. I’m not talking about “China” or some “slippery slope”, what I’m saying is there are Russian mob sites we have no controls over that sell hideous abusive content in our country and we should stop them…I don’t see that as illiberal regardless of what the motion says.

    What else can I concede without making it impossible to trade? The whole point of the bill was to try to avoid that, and give people warnings and then slow their connection down, or in worst offender cases, temporarily suspend the connection, rather than big, costly legal cases. People can appeal to tribunals, and that is built into the bill (section 14). I don’t see how full legal force is more liberal than sending someone a letter asking them to stop, plus it’s clearly unworkable to prosecute everyone, which is surely what you’re suggesting by appealing to the CDPA. I’m looking for a more socially friendly way, and the DEB would give us that if it was worked on further and not just discarded, as the motion suggests. Also, we’re talking about a facet of the bill, it addresses a lot of other issues about the UK’s digital economy other than filesharing and copyright, such as digital radio, TV switchover, EMS licensing, classification of video games, etc, etc. The Lib Dems now don’t have a position on any of these issues, or implementation.

    The real irony is that this will never get through in time. As such, all that’s been achieved here is discord and apathy before the general election – when Parliament reconvenes the reduced Lib Dem representation will be powerless to stop it rolling through in whatever form, so these people have served the agenda of Labour/Tories, lost their chance to have a real say and split the party in the process. I figured if we all just concentrated on getting our candidates elected things would work out fine, clearly that isn’t the case.

    Either way, I’m sorry if you’ve taken offence at my ranting, I’m all about working together to get it right…sadly they just want to axe it.

  • Incidentally, not suggesting you’re illiterate – just that most of the people spreading the disconnection myth around never actually cite the wording of the bill, because it’s never said that, so it doesn’t suit their narrative.

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