Public Figures Protest Digital Economy Bill in Open Letter

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A group of prominent public figures have published an open letter protesting the undemocratic methods likely to be used to push through the Digital Economy Bill. They argue that by passing controversial elements such as disconnections and site blocking without proper scrutiny, faith in politicians wall fall even further.

Despite protest from the public, the UK Government continues to push forward with the adoption of the Digital Economy Bill (DEB), legislation that will supposedly protect copyright holders from online pirates.

This week the House of Lords approved the Bill and handed it over to the House of Commons who will deal with the most controversial elements – disconnections and site-blocking – without proper scrutiny during the so-called “wash-up” period.

This and other controversies have absolutely enraged those who oppose the Bill and has led more than 10,000 voters in the last few days to write to their MPs to demand a full debate.

Last night, musician Billy Bragg, TalkTalk’s Andrew Heaney, Jim Killock from the Open Rights Group and Anthony Barnett from openDemocracy were joined by human rights activist Peter Tatchell, politicians from three political parties and numerous others to add their voices to the growing chorus of objection.

In an open letter they are demanding that the disconnections/throttling (aka technical measures) and site-blocking clauses are either properly debated or taken out of the Bill and “subjected to genuine democratic scrutiny in a new parliament.”

They emphasize that not only does the Bill threaten to breach human rights, suppress free speech and hamper legitimate activities on the web, but also poses a threat to the economy.

“Democracy and accountability will be sidestepped if this bill is rushed through and amended without debate during the so-called ‘wash-up’ process,” notes the letter, adding: “The thousands of people we know to be contacting their MPs with concerns will find their faith in politicians even further undermined.”

Indeed, the way this Bill has been handled from start to finish has proven deeply worrying but even if the Government ignores all dissent and presses ahead with its implementation, along with the suspensions, disconnections, site-blocking and all, one thing remains absolutely certain.

The main aim of propping up the “creative industries” (read: the BPI and its members) with this legislation will fail. People will not be heading back to music stores in their millions, they will feel bullied, intimidated and absolutely dedicated to finding new ways to carry on regardless, just as they are in France.

And there will be half a dozen ways to do just that and rest assured there will soon be plenty more – because people will create them. Welcome to the arms race.

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