Monday, March 15, 2010

The Day Democracy Died: DEB

Disclaimer: this is is based on somewhat confused reporting via Twitter (especial thanks to Glyn Wintle) and should not be regarded as final and correct till Hansard comes out. However something needs to be said quickly.

The Lib Dem amendments I mentioned in my previous posts - alongside some equally sensible amendments designed in particular to stop every search engine being blocked under clause 18 - were rejected by the Government this afternoon in the Lords, on what appeared to be legally spurious grounds, to the clear dismay and disquiet of the Lords.

Shortly thereafter it appears some kind of deal was done whereby the Government announced they would bring forward unspecified changes to the disputed clause 18 at "wash up" - the pre election stage where legislation is pushed through with no opportunity for MPs to propose amendments or even , perhaps, make comments in debate, let alone scrutinise. It seems all opportunity for democratic amendment to the Bill has now come to an end.

In other words we are now completely dependent on the good will of the party front benches to make this Bill fit for purpose and responsive to consumer needs and the public interest - even though time and again so far it has been shown to be completely subject to regulatory capture by the sectoral interests of the music industry. The BPI strategy leaked a few days ago, namely, to crash their Bill through by avoiding at all costs public debate and parliamentary scrutiny, has been shown to be successful.

This is simply disgraceful. It is law making by industry, for industry, on the nod of all three major political parties (and against the grassroots sentiment of at least one of them). This is no longer just about copyright, or downloading, or even freedom of speeech and due process. It is about democracy, and whether this country is run by MPs or by lobbyists and Big Capital. It is a day when as a democrat, and a lawyer, (and not as a "copyright activist" as one commenter wrongly called me - I believe in copyright, I just don't believe in destroying the legal system to enforce it) ) I am deeply , deeply disappointed.

There is one way forward for here for democratic scrutiny to be restored, and that is for MPs to demand a debate at the Commons stage of the Bill and refuse to allow this messed up mockery of legislation to pass on the nod. Write to your MP and demand this. Go on one of the rallies and flash mobs planned for next week by ORG. Write to the BPI and tell then that you did not vote for them to run the country. Make your voice heard.

I know this will seem like purple prose, and I hope to revert soon to writing about Internet law matters in a more traditional academic fashion. But today, I am simply too appalled.

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