Over the last year, TorrentFreak has covered the controversies surrounding the Digital Economy Bill (DEB) extensively. ISPs don’t want it, many MPs don’t want it, the legal profession doesn’t think it’s legal and over 20,000 people have emailed their elected representatives to voice their displeasure.
Championed by Baron Mandelson after an entirely coincidental holiday meeting with Dreamworks co-founder David Geffin, the Bill has now taken another step in its rush to become law before the end of Parliament, despite all the protests and criticisms.
The Bill, which the UK Pirate Party say “will shape the future of technological and artistic progress” was not important to most MPs. Through the 5 hours of debates, only around 20 MPs were present, including just one from the Liberal Democrat party – Don Foster (Lib-Dem, Bath) – who had pledged not to vote for the Bill.
Debate was mostly back and forth over the contentious issue of disconnections, but industry figures and unverified estimates were again quoted as fact. Many (including Labour MPs) were outraged at the Government for having left it so late to try and rush through a Bill as complex and controversial as this. It did, however, get passed at this second reading and will be taken to a third tomorrow.
The low turnout didn’t stop the invective, however, or the silly comments, lies, inaccuracies and other miscellaneous statements, all of which were picked up on Twitter (over 16,000 tweets under the #DEB and #DEBill tags), and analyzed a great deal more thoroughly than by these MPs that had apparently read the Bill. Some of the most memorable points include:
- “The creative industries have grown at twice the rate of the economy as a whole over the past 10 years, and they should do so again over the next 10”. Ben Bradshaw MP
- [on Clause 43 – Orphan works] “Let me provide an example of where this is already going wrong. An image of none other than the great Lord Mandelson himself is apparently being used to market a Russian vodka, with the caption, “When only the best is good enough”. If ever we needed proof that captions to pirated images can be misleading, surely that is it.” Jeremy Hunt MP
- “The Government could have brought this Bill before Parliament ages ago, because these issues have been in the public domain for years. The Gowers review of intellectual property is so old it is practically out of copyright.” Jeremy Hunt MP
- “I cannot see how the Bill takes on India or China; I simply cannot see a single provision that does so. They are not going to settle for 2 megabytes; they are going to settle for 100 — and much, much more.” Derek Wyatt MP
- “Listen, if we want the smartest, most creative industry, we have to tackle intellectual property and copyright together. They cannot just be shunted in as a couple of paragraphs; they are so fundamental to the reason why people write music, sing or create whatever they do.” Derek Wyatt MP
And most amusingly:
- “People are not talking about co-operating and sharing their own thoughts and content, but are stealing someone else’s content and sharing that. There is an Armageddon, which has partially arrived in Sweden, where the Pirate Party, whose leader is in jail, won seats in the European Parliament on the basis that everybody’s work—including MP4’s—should be free.” Michael Connarty MP. Rick Falkvinge was quick to point out that he remains a free man.”Despite rumors to the contrary, it is still not illegal in Sweden to hold political opinions that would bring the country into the digital age,” he told TorrentFreak. “Such a society would be atrocious and far out of line from all Human Rights Conventions. One might also wonder what other facts proponents of the Digital Economy Bill have gotten entirely wrong.”
The Bill passed despite extensive opposition from many MPs present, who had concerns over specific amendments and the breakneck pace the Bill is being forced through with virtually no debate. The sensible suggestion that it be left for the next Government to reintroduce was derided as it is “needed now”, despite the fact that those industries have not only survived, put prospered without the Bill for the last 10 years.
Meanwhile, the MPs were not so much concerned with the public outcry, as the sartorial comments on Twitter. The Bill now gets a total of two hours for Committee, Reports and its third reading later today, after which it will be (probably) passed.
The first two hours of debate can be watched on the BBC website and the transcripts are here. The third reading of the DEB is scheduled for tonight and if the bill passes it will head over to the Lords where it will be signed into law.