The Bill becomes an Act
Just over a week ago, the Digital Economy Bill got its 3rd reading, and according to “Computing” got its Royal Assent on the 9th April. I watched the 2nd & 3rd reading debates on parliament.tv with Tweetdeck open. Others have commented on how helpful having crowd sourced commentary was, which I have to agree with and also how disappointed they were that most MPs weren’t in the chamber to hear the debate. Twitter certainly enhanced my understanding and enjoyment of the debates, which were rather spoiled at the end by the tiny vote in favour of the Lib Dem amendment and then against the 3rd reading. On the good side, I have been pleased to ‘meet’ some new twitter correspondents, however I had to turn it off at work for the rest of the week. Unlike contracted musicians with royalty based earnings, if I don’t work, I don’t get paid and I found it too distracting.
I was expecting all the campaigning to re-focus on the general election but some important developments have taken place.
Mark Lazorowicz, MP for Edinburgh N. & Leith wrote about the debate in his blog, and pointed at Hansard’s record of the debate and vote, I shall look at this in some detail; there’s some interesting learning for a number of us. At ORG, on their forums, a number of constituency threads have been opened to discuss the MP and PPC responses to the events of last week. It might be better informed by the following table,
I used http://www.theyworkforyou.com/ to get the party alignments. I have included the tellers, Hansard doesn’t. Not pretty! No one comes out of that vote with glory. You could say that the Tories did best, they had more votes against than for, apart from the Lib Dems, who had none for the Bill, but it’s the Tory front bench that permitted Labour’s Government to ram the bill though. Let ‘s be clear, the Labour front bench gave the Tories what they wanted on Ofcom powers, top slicing the BBC licence to fund Channel 4 and Regional News, the phone tax, and the orphaned photos clause; this left the disconnection clauses & web blocking. They i.e. the Tory Front Bench then acquiesced in passing the Bill and the timetable motions, that allowed the Bill to pass through the truncated wash up process.
What’ll happen next? ORG are still arguing about how to vote in the general election. If the DE Bill is the most important issue to you, you’ll need to ask your candidates. You can discover what your MP did at Vote them Out or better at the Hansard site, and who your PPC, or candidate now is at Your next MP. However Tom Watson, generally seen as the most informed MP on these issues and standing for re-election as a Labour Candidate in the West Midlands has attempted to crowdsource a new digital economy pledge on his blog and at uservoice.com where you can vote on his and other’s suggestions. Eric Joyce in his last blog before the election, called “…What to do next” is proposing, should he be re-elected, to convene a cross party meeting of interested MPs to ensure that the debates on the secondary legislation required in the next parliament are better informed. These are both important initiatives and I wish them well.
I (and others) have argued that the passage of the Digital Economy Bill will distort the development of the internet. The ISP’s have argued that their customers will have to spend £350m upgrading their home equipment to allow them to argue they have taken reasonable measures to ensure their wifi isn’t used by someone else. (It may even stop some of it. I shall be upgrading all the security on my wireless gateways over the next few days, but I am not sure if what I plan to do is good enough. ) This is good, but with other changes, it’s less clear. The Register, on Thursday, published an article on SeedFucker, which is best explained by a further article at TorrentFreak, called, Seedfucker is not going to make bittorrent anonymous. However, the TorrentFreak people have published a how to encrypt your torrent traffic and how file sharers have or will moved on, and at Rory Cellan-Jones’ blog at the BBC, in an article describing the parliamentary proceedings a correspondent who signs himself Dan writes that,
People who oppose the bill are not upset because they want to download illegally with impunity, they oppose it because they do not have to be proven guilty, they only have to be accused, by people who for the past 3+ years have been demonstrating that they are willing to accuse a great many people who they are not certain are actually guilty.
This and the remainder of the comment is very insightful, I wish I could be as economic with words as he is. He alleges that industrial scale pirates aren’t using torrent any more and explains what they are doing. So the Digital Economy Bill/Act is just in time to drive P2P technology off the UK network, when the pervasiveness of copper and the lack of public ambition on internet speed means that P2P may be an important resource for the UK internet. An article at El Reg published in February, entitled Why you subsidize Google’s Soviet-style Net explores the public cost dimension of internet architecture, specifically arguing for local capability, and while they argue for Akami video caches in the local exchange’s there is no doubt that P2P capability i.e. torrent seeds at the consumer end is an alternative. The article doesn’t explore the enablement of the computers that act as domestic/consumer gateways, but could and should. The internet consists of pipes and switches. Many switches sit in our homes and can be used to compensate for the age and crapness of the (copper) pipes in the ground.
Citizens not Suspects
Beyond the questions of technology and architecture, the politics, economics and rapant commercialism and greed are continuing apace. Among many the BBC have reported on ACS:Law’s mass dunning letters
Anti-piracy firm DigiProtect, which has teamed up with UK law firm ACS:Law to send thousands of letters to alleged net pirates, has defended its actions.
It follows widespread condemnation of their methods, which involves mass-mailing alleged file-sharers asking them to pay a fine or face court.
A similar story is reported in the Guardian Digital Economy Act likely to increase households targeted for piracy which they start by stating that,
Fears increase that law firms may home in on innocent web users who don’t illegally download
And back to the politics
Yesterday the Green Party launched their manifesto which covered a range of policies but includes the promise to,
Encourage greater sharing of intellectual property by reducing, but not abandoning, levels of patent and copyright protection. In particular we would legalise peer to peer copying where it is not done as a business and make it impossible to patent broad software and cultural ideas.
and today Nick Clegg, the Lib Dem party leader announces that the Lib Dems will seek repeal the Act if they are part of the government finally nailing the Lib Dem colours to the mast of opposing the Digitial Economy Bill’s pursuit of consumers.
It’s not over by a long way.
I started writing this on 15th April and finished it the following day. These articles take a bit of research, and so some of the tenses and (relative) dates are a bit iffy
As ever you can still comment on my Intellectual Property Page on this site.
I inserted the sub heading when I copied the article across in Aug 2013, in retrospect, this was two articles.