The Digital Economy Bill will be released at 7.30am tomorrow and will, it seems, include not only the anticipated disconnection provisions, but also a clause to allow the Secretary of State to basically change copyright law at will in order to stop filesharing, without primary legislation and without proper public debate and democratic oversight.
Why is this?
It's reflecting the fact that technology is changing very fast," said Timms. "The existing [method] is quite cumbersome. We might need something else in the future."
So clearly every time things happen fast and the law might struggle to keep up with them, in future, well we should just junk ordinary democratic safeguards before anyone notices, and bow instead to the partisan interests who pay lobbyists the most to shout the loudest? I expect to see similar legislation introduced shortly so that SIs can be whipped out and shoved through to deal with every fast moving situation from Afghanistan to floods in Essex, banker bonuses in December and tone deaf twins winning X-Factor. Hey, democratic debate is for wimps. SOOOO last millennium.
The best thing one could say about this legislation is that it is so outrageous, it is hard to believe it could seriously have been included in the Queen's Speech if the current sadpack on the way out thought there was a real chance of getting it through before the election.
I could say a great deal more about this but I won't : Instead I'll quote in full the funniest thing on the Internet today by novelist Nick Harkaway.
"News I Made Up Which Would Arguably Be Less Bad Than The Actual News. (2)
The Business Secretary, Lord Mandelson, today announced the creation of a new post to deal with the nuanced and difficult issue of copyright in the digital era. The Batshit Tsar will have a mandate to seek out anyone, anywhere who does anything using a computer and set them on fire.
Candidates for the post include Lord Duckhouse of Cobbham, Baroness Fishwicket (formerly BPI President Martin Cleep) and Brian Dubblehand-Pryce, Witchfinder General to the Court of James I & VIth, although there is some doubt over the availability of Mr Dubblehand-Pryce, as he is believed to have been dead for four hundred years.
Civil liberties campaigners have expressed alarm at the plan to make an offense of ‘downloading copyright material’. It is unclear how anyone will be able to use the internet ever again without committing a crime. A Department of Health spokesman said this would have the positive effect of getting people out in the open air.
“The Internet is a middle class, elitist phenomenon which is ruining our atomised society with a sense of community and cooperation,” he said. “This will put a stop to that, and to the development of the nascent public sphere which has given us so much trouble recently.”
The much-debated ‘three strikes’ policy will require a massive monitoring operation, trawling through the logs of anyone who uses a high-bandwidth connection to get large amounts of data to see if they are doing anything wrong. This sort of ‘fishing expedition’ is generally considered inadmissible in court, but since there will be no court for this sort of crime, the government is confident the issue will not arise.
“If we don’t do this,” the spokesman said, “we’ll almost certainly have an outbreak of witches by Christmas. There will be rains of frogs and giant panthers in Surrey, and even my tinfoil hat will not protect me from the brainwaves of Satan which are transmitted down the tubes of the Internet by demonic monkeys. The public has to be protected.”
Lorrie Fingerhubble, of the British Association of Giant Nocturnal Lizards, welcomed the news.
“I think this is absolutely splendid,” Ms Fingerhubble said enthusiastically from her secret undersea base in Regent’s Park. “It’s ideal for the government to be able to make arbitrary, draconian changes to the law which won’t work, will cost money, and will criminalise everyone. It’s a traditional approach to law in the UK: we make a rule no one can hope to obey and then prosecute people when we want to but not otherwise, creating a sense of lurking guilt and suspicion at all times!”
Asked whether the law might conceivably be misused to stifle democratic debate or to spy on people, the government spokesman said:
I somehow doubt that those members of the Commons and the Lords with legal backgrounds would let pass a provision which allows governments to make radical changes on the suspicion of the possibility that there might be a contingency which has not hitherto arisen -- i.e., one can't make law addressed to hypotheses. This (pace my comment on your post yesterday about the Tories' general support for the Bill) is exactly the sort of thing the Lords will want to "scrutinise thoroughly" as part of the Conservative attempt to strangle Labour's last legislative programme, and thus one of the clauses which will most likely be jettisoned to get the Bill through as the moment of electoral dissolution approaches.
None of which should stop people writing to MPs (and Lords) with legal backgrounds pointing out the wide-ranging stupidity of the draft amendments to the Copyright Act. And quoting gleefully from Stephen Timms's flounderingly incoherent interview in yesterday's Grauniad -- the man is so far up himself that he can't tell day from night.
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