The UK Government continues to push forward the Digital Economy Bill (DEB) that aims to protect copyright holders from online pirates. On 15th March the House of Lords approved the bill and handed it over to the House of Commons.
To the absolute dismay of most outside the music and movie industries, some of the most controversial elements of the Bill are unlikely to receive any major scrutiny and will be dealt with quickly under the so-called “wash-up”, a short period between the announcement of an election and parliament being closed down.
“It’s a deeply unsatisfactory and very worrying development,” a senior executive from an ISP told The Guardian. “The fear is that no one will know what is being cooked-up before it becomes law. It’s legislation on the hoof.”
But this situation suits the BPI just fine. This week a leaked memo from the BPI fell into the hands of Cory Doctorow which showed that the “LibDem amendment” – a proposal under the DEB which would allow for websites to be blocked if, essentially, the BPI didn’t like their activities – was in fact written by the BPI. Very cosy.
But the controversies don’t end there. Doctorow also received an internal document prepared by the BPI’s Director of Public Affairs and prospective Labour parliamentary candidate, Richard Mollet. In the document he admitted that the only reason the DEB had a chance of passing is because MP’s are resigned to voting on it without debate.
“Translation: if MPs got to debate the Bill, they would tear it to unrecognizable pieces as they realized what terrible rubbish it really is,” wrote Doctorow. The scandals go on and on, but we have to stop somewhere.
Nevertheless, UK Music head Feargal Sharkey says that he is confident that the DEB will be passed before the general election, although others are not so sure.
“It will still be nip and tuck to get the Digital Economy Bill onto the statute book before the election so the battle is not won yet,” wrote Shadow Culture Minister, Jeremy Hunt, on his blog this week.
According to Jim Killock at the Open Rights Group, UK citizens aren’t leaving anything to chance with 10,000 of them having written to their MPs in the last three days to demand a debate on the Digital Economy Bill.
“It is outrageous for corporate lobbyists including the BPI, FAST and UK Music to demand that MPs curtail democracy and ram this Bill through Parliament without debate,” says Killock, adding: “The British people did not elect UK Music and the BPI to write our laws.”
Killock says that what is making the 10,000 so angry is the pushing through of the DEB without debate, an act he describes as “undemocratic and dangerous”.