Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Harry Mandelson and the 3 Strikes of Doom

As numerous bloggers are reporting today, first the Guardian and now the Beeb have reported that the Dept for Business under the proud thrusting leadership of Peter Mandelson, has done a volte face and done exactly what they stated in the Digital Britain consultation in June they would not do - added the possibility of 3 Strikes - disconnection as sanction for filesharing - into the melting pot of the UK's endless file-sharing consultations. This notwithstanding that without substantial judicial control of disconections, about which we have zero detail, both the the European Parliament and the French Constitutional Court have indicated that such a policy would probably contravene human rights.

Best of all, this change of heart is not even vaguely democratic or considered. Instead, as the Guardian put it, "The surprise move will intensify speculation that Lord Mandelson reached a secret deal to protect the film and music industries with Hollywood mogul David Geffen earlier this month." Ho bloody ho for public "consultation".

There had also been whispers for some time that the industry was unhappy with the speed at which the Digital Britain consultation was moving, ie, would anything get done before the current government was voted out and the whole farce had to start again. So now we have proposals for a fast track procedure for 3 strikes which will not only breach European law but have arrived mid-consultation, when many organisations and individuals may already have responded, making a simple mockery of consultative democracy and exposing the government's business leaders as mere lackeys to the dying throes of the music industry's last attempts to protect anti-competitive and antiquated business models.

As ORG point out:

"Yet again, we see knee-jerk reactions and policy swerves, this time in direct contravention of the government’s own consultation guidelines. Those guidelines are there for a reason: to make sure government policy is balanced and considered. We will be making a formal complaint."

Some regular readers may wonder why Pangloss has focused so much on this issue over the last few years, and sometimes I do too. I am not primarily an IP expert. I have no great love for filesharers and my own life is reasonably complete without free access to the complete works of Michael Jackson. The reason I have become so involved in this single issue is because throughout, a single industry sector has shown complete contempt both for democratic procedures, the public interest and for basic and fundamental human rights, all in the name of extracting the last cent of their own, still not inconsiderable, profits.

Ok, companies exist to make profits. But worst of all, our own elected democratic governments, though very well aware of all these points, have gone along like sheep, far more willing to disproportionately criminalise a generation and remove access from students, the unemployed et al to the most essential facility we have ever developed, for minor civil infringements (no one is talking about commercial criminal piracy here) than consider the public balance of interests.

Is this because rock and film stars are sexy? or because the content industry has spent so much on lobbyists there must now be one per MP at least? - I do not know. And of course it is mid August , the height of the sleepy season when many influential newsmakers and commentators might be hoped to be somewhere near Tuscany or at least the Edinburgh Fringe rather than a keyboard:) Perhaps when the first UK Pirate Party MP or MEP is elected the government will wake up to the startling wrongheadedness of the current approach.

So this is why I continue to care about this topic, and why you should too. Read the ORG blog; write to your MP and MEP; complain.

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