Monday, 5 April 2010

The Net and Stuff

'But sales are slumping/And no one will say why/Could it be they put out/One too many lousy records?' Dead Kennedys 'MTV Get Off the Air'.

Tomorrow sees the Second Reading of the Digital Economy Bill in Parliament, which the Government would dearly love to make law before Westminster is dissolved for the General Election. It appears to me not only a bad law, but a law that should not be passed without full scrutiny. To make it law during the death throes of this Rump Parliament is to me plain wrong and undemocratic. I have written to my MP and she supports the Government. That's one more reason why I won't be voting for her in the General Election. You can try and contact your MP before the reading tomorrow, and I hope you have more luck than what I did. You may want to read what the Open Rights Group (from whom I borrowed the 'Dear Citizens' Letter above) say about the Bill and why everyone should be concerned:

Why Should I Care?

Consumers and companies (including Google, Facebook and Internet Service Providers themselves) alike are up in arms about the Bill, which proposes that an Internet connection could be cut off if there is suspicion that it is being used for the downloading of copyrighted content. This is very disturbing:

Although proof is required before disconnection, the evidence does not have to relate to you: you can be punished for the actions of a friend or even a neighbour who has used your Internet connection.

Rights holders could have the power to demand that sites they believe to contravene copyright law be blocked by ISPs. Right now, we don't know what the government will propose, as they have yet to draft their new proposal

As it is not the perpetrator that is punished, as you might expect, but the owner of the connection, and others using it, caf├ęs and bars may have to stop providing wifi.

Regardless of what you do or don't do, you could be punished for the actions of others because of laws put in place by the Digital Economy Bill: if you have unsecured wifi in your home, you could be punished; if you use the Internet at your local coffee shop or library, you could lose access to that connection.

Justice would not be completely out of reach: you could appeal, but you would have to pay for the privilege, and you wouldn't be eligible for any legal aid. Reasons for appeal are limited, and unlike in a trial, the onus would not be on rights holders to prove your guilt: you would be responsible for proving your innocence.

This will be voted upon in the very near future by your MP, and we need to ensure that the Bill is properly debated, and that all MPs know how dangerous it is to individuals and small businesses. If we don't ensure that it is properly scrutinised, the Bill could pass and have severe effects on the freedom and rights of innocent people, educational establishments and small businesses alike.

You may also want to read this.

The provisions of  the Digital Economy Bill seem to me pretty draconian. Furthermore, there appears to be no way that the Bill will stop those who really want to dowload copyrighted material, as the French experience suggests. It just seems to be a rather late in the day attempt by the mainstream music industry, fronted by Simon Cowell, (who was only able to make Susan Boyle a worldwide star through people surreptiously downloading her performances on Britain's Got Talent and sticking them on YouTube!) to save itself from the same place Betamax videos went. This anti-piracy campaign seems to me to have strong echoes of the 1980s music industry campaign:
To which there is an obvious reply, popularised by Alternative Tentacles Records:

The last thing I have to say about the music industry is that it seems to justify all its actions by the need to protect its artists, particularly new and struggling ones. However, Sony does not seem to care much about one of its top artistes, namely Beyonce Knowles, does it?

Perhaps Beyonce should record with Alternative Tentacles...

Important as music is, there is other stuff going on the Net to worry about. For instance, there is the US Government war on Wikileaks, which keeps revealing stuff which is pretty embarrassing to the powers-that-be in the US.

There is also the use of the internet to fight 'The War Against Terror', or whatever phrase the Obama Adminstration is giving it at the moment. Much of it may be justifiable (I for one do not want to see London suffer another day like July 7th 2005) but everyone should acknowledge the murky side to intelligence wars.

There is also the extremely murky Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. Glorified talking shop it may be, but at least the European Parliament has voted 636-10 against ACTA (the European Commission- surprise surprise- supports ACTA), 'arguing that it flouts agreed EU laws on counterfeiting and piracy online. MEPs will go to the Court of Justice if the EU does not reject the leaked proposals which include draconian powers to censor the internet and disconnect net connections.'  The 10 MEPs to vote for ACTA were all UKIP ones, just for the record.

Finally, back to Blighty, where good old snail mail may soon be intercepted by tax inspectors. I balk at Henry Porter's use of the phrase 'Stasi' to describe this move. Like David Mitchell, I try hard not to compare anything happening in the West these days to what happened in Nazi Germany and the former Eastern Bloc. However, giving these proposed powers to the HMRC, which I doubt will be a major issue in the coming General Election campaign, should be something people are very much aware of.

Anyway, I will leave it there. I will try start blogging about the General Election campaign tomorrow (if it is called tomorrow) and will at least try to update you on the progress or not (touch wood) of the Digital Economy Bill.

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