For the last two nights I’ve watched the Digital Economy Bill‘s passage through the House of Commons.
The Bill, one of the most controversial for years, was placed in ‘Wash Up’ following the calling of the General Election. Wash Up truncates the legislative process. Instead of 2 readings and a committee stage which can last up to 50 hours the DE Bill received 2 hours of discussion.
The Digital Economy bill deals with copyright, illegal downloading, TV and a whole range of other issues and is quite simply a bad piece of legislation.
Speaker after speaker exposed holes in the legislation. Tom Watson, Labour MP for West Bromwich East, seemed to be one of just a handful of people who actually understood what they were talking about.
Part of the debate was around how people who infringe copyright in the digital arena would be dealt with. If you have wi-fi and someone uses it to illegally download files then you will get a letter. Obviously the government haven’t heard or proxy servers, changing IP addresses or hacking wi-fi.
Stephen Timms, the Labour Minister responsible for the bill, actually suggested that people could make their wi-fi completely secure by adding a password.
The level of ignorance was stunning. Both Labour and Conservative front benches were painfully lacking in understanding of the real issues that this bill will impact.
Not one speaker supported copyright infringement. What those opposing the bill recognised is that copyright law needs completely overhauled so that it protects the people and ideas and creations it should protect but doesn’t punish those who don’t need or deserve to be punished.
John Redwood asked a simple question about the point at which copyright is breached if for example he paid for content, printed it and gave it to his wife. Would that be a breach? Or if he gave it to a friend? Or if he posted it on his blog? Or if he sold it?
Stephen Timms didn’t understand the question!!!
As someone on Twitter said, “It’s like watching 5 year olds talking about qualtum mechanics”.
This is apparently the home of democracy. What happened last night was nothing like democracy. It was a joke. A bad joke that Labour and the Tories stitched up between them.
So, make sure your router has a password or you could be getting a letter from Big Brother sometime soon.