Labour & Digital

Trefor Davies of trefor.net commissioned and published an article by me on the state of the politics of digital and its likely impact on the General Election. In the article I classify the issues around citizenship and economics. Obviously the manifesto has not been published and so prediction of its content is not easy. Regular readers will know that I am a supporter of both the Open Rights Group and Privacy International. I have also served on NESSI, the EU’s internet/I.T. R&D project incubator.  I am hopeful on the issues of citizenship, unsure on copyright and intellectual property laws and expect a good offer on digital government.

Citizenship

I point out that on citizenship the pressure group @LabourDigital, has agreed with me and called for Labour to support the EDRI charter of Digital Rights, the charter has 10 points addressing the issues of democratic participation, privacy, equality before the law, and asserting citizens’ rights in intellectual property law. I proposed its adoption on www.youbritan.com here, and since members of the PLP seem to feel they can continue to campaign for their favoured policies, it’s probably not too late to vote on it.

labourdigital-w650

I make the point that Human Rights Act and Freedom of Information Act were passed by a Labour Government and that if you read the tea leaves, both Yvette Cooper and David Blunkett have been recognising the dangers that the Security Services & Police reaction to current security threats pose to ordinary people’s rights to privacy. The comparison of the Labour’s record with the current coalition’s is not simple; the current government have over the term of this parliament, introduced secret courts, restricted legal aid & judicial review and passed the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers (DRIP) Act. In contrast In Europe, Labour’s Claude Moraes has led the European Parliament’s robust response to the Snowden leaks.

Copyright

Later in the article, I talk about the balance of class forces within the Labour Party on the copyright wars; I am not expecting great things from the manifesto or the PLP, but the European Parliamentary Labour Party is much better and back in the UK there are a number of Labour MPs and candidates who are unlikely to vote for stronger enforcement or weaker limitations and exceptions. One hopes that Labour will catch up with the serious problems that stupidly strong copyright creates in academia, basic research and I.T. It’s for these reasons that the French are performing a U-turn and the US never went down this route. I don’t hold out much hope before the manifesto.

I talk about the cretinous populism of more e-voting, which reminds me I need to do some more reading/writing on this.

Digital Economy & Government

I point at Labour’s Digital Government Review and its focus on inclusion, citizen’s ownership and local government.

I make three proposals echoing that which I said in this article on the blog

  1. Public money buys public domain/access
  2. Privacy is a right, to be infringed by neither state nor corporation
  3. Law must be transparent and so must the Law’s software.

I would add the need for a fair copyright, and argue for no retreat from the Hargreaves Review, and a movement towards robust fair use, and shortened durations. I’d also argue for the repeal of the Digital Economy Act. It’s clearly not implementable, and now that the content owners will have to pay for it they don’t want it, and that’s before one considers the civil liberties dimension. It is also part of the legal framework which makes the UK one of the world’s most restrictive legal regimes in the world.

I conclude by pointing out the record of a number of Labour MPs including Tom Watson, Dianne Abbot, Fiona McTaggart, Michael Meacher and John McDonnell who have got most or all of the Digital Liberty issues right. If the polls are right and the election result is close the influence of this informed minority could be significant.

The final, if obvious, point to make is that there are other crucial issues in play here. Some of these impact the issues of digital liberty & economy such as Labour’s proposals for an Investment Bank and to reduce university tuition fees, however for many the major issues such as macro-economic policy i.e fiscal and monetary policy, the funding and governance of the National Health Service, Housing, Education and Energy will more important and for them the choice is obvious; there are only two realistic candidates to become Prime Minister but for those concerned with the state of the politics of digital, a Labour led House of Commons with a strong pro-citizen group may well be the best result.

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