☞ The Digital Election

  • Kevin Marks with a great (and short) comment that highlights the real, long-term issue with where copyright, trademark and especially patent law is headed. All three were originally intended to prevent abuse by originators of products. All three have become instruments to control consumers of products in the digital realm.

    Until now, those of us with first-hand contact with the emerging digital economy have gone largely unheard as the giants of 20th century industry have used the influence granted to them in the years since they were the underdog to manipulate legislation into shoring up their businesses. Today, legislation acts against citizens rather than protecting them. It’s time to reverse the trend and be heard. I called my MP about the Bill, and I am not alone.

    This election in the UK, we need to put the real digital economy – the one with citizens in it – on the agenda.

Shorter comments:

  • “As copyright laws get more ridiculous, we’re teaching people to not move forward if they don’t know for sure — and that can create a massive stifling of creativity and expression.” — This is the reason we need to turn back the trend expressed by the Digital Economy Bill. As Kevin Marks suggests, it’s creating a digital economy the same way the Locomotive Bill created a transportation system.
  • This is an excellent idea, and I think helping Norbert get the letter tidied up is a worthwhile activity.
  • Presumably after this the trolls with the patent pursue pretty much everyone else on the internet? It’s hard to imagine a better poster-child for patent reform.
  • “Quick, define irony: the BBC, one of the main proponents of a bill to allow them to use other people’s images in ways they didn’t envisage without permission or payment, is furious that somebody has taken a BBC image and used it in a way the BBC didn’t envisage without permission or payment.” — Section 43 of the Digital Economy Bill is a travesty of justice for photographers, from amateurs-on-iStockPhoto like me all the way up.

✍ Copying Is Not Theft; Saying It Is IS Spin

Just in case you were in any way confused (which it seems a whole lot of people are), copying is not stealing, as this charming little jingle illustrates. Infringing someone’s copyright may be against the law, but it is not theft, and whenever you hear someone say that it is you’ve just spotted the “genetic marker” for someone who is either confused or trying to feed you spin. Most likely the latter at the moment.

☞ Time Running Out

Tomorrow is the second reading of the Digital Economy Bill in the House of Commons in the UK. It’s important that we all let our representatives know that geeks vote too and that the people with a first-hand understanding of the issues think it needs more scrutiny. I’ve included three great, thoughtful posts from JP Rangaswami of BT which provide explanations that are good for non-specialists.

  • “We have two more days to mobilise online opposition to the Digital Economy Bill. Here’s what you can do.”

  • JP has written here a long article about the potential unintended consequences of the Digital Economy Bill for the music industry. I disagree slightly with his continued focus on the downloads aspect. The biggest problems with the bill are that, in the name of protecting Cliff Richard’s pension, it will remove photographers’ rights, eliminate open wifi, enable easy censorship for unethical corporations and introduce other abuses the way the DMCA did.

    His analysis is still very much worth reading to bring home the fact that the Bill dabbles inexpertly in an incredibly complex area of interlocking ecosystems and will upset them just as surely as introducing cane toads did in Australia.

  • JP with a delicious parable explaining why the Digital Economy Bill, although well-intentioned, acts in a way that’s disproportionate. Personally I am amazed to hear Gordon Brown preaching about the need for every citizen to have internet access and the need for online access to government services, and then in the next breath saying it’s fine to have it taken away for an offence whose analogue equivalents wouldn’t result in suspension of access to government services.

  • JP illustrates nicely the disconnect between what our politicians think the digital economy is from their (at best) second-hand pedestal and what people actually engaged first-hand in the digital economy think it is.

  • I have so far seen no mention of the challenges of the surveillance society by any political party in the materials delivered to my home.

    While the front benches of the main parties try (hopefully unwittingly) to criminalise kids over copyright, rob photographers of their income, shut down nationwide wifi and provide a way for corporations to censor citizens and competitors, the police are running roughshod over our rights using exactly the same technologies.

    The Digital Economy that our politicians have in mind is second-hand, relayed to them via lobbyists. Today is the day to contact your MP and the candidates in the upcoming election and tell them that you, a first-hand participant in the Digital Economy, are not satisfied.

☞ It Can Get Worse

  • Yes, another posting from me about the Digital Economy Bill. As I keep saying, this bill is about more than just disconnection. Clause 43 sounds fair enough – putting “orphan works” where the copyright owner can’t be found into the public domain sounds a good thing. But it has been badly constructed, presumably with input from lobbyists with skewed interests.

    It will have the side effect of making all photographs public domain unless they are painfully obviously marked with the photographer’s identity. When you write to your MP, ignore disconnection (it will just make them toss your letter); complain about clause 43, about the threat to open WiFi and about the apparently corrupt avoidance of democratic process. Oh, and write today, we’re running out of time.

    And sadly this is not an April Fools prank.

In other news:

✍ Digital Liberty Activism

Ubuntu UK Podcast LogoA big hello to listeners to the Ubuntu UK Podcast, where I’m appearing as a guest on this week’s show.

In my interview in this episode, I focused on digital liberty issues, which I believe to be hugely important and becoming more so every day. If you’re ready to find out more about the issues I discussed, here’s a quick guide along with hints on taking action. I mentioned writing to your MP and MEP – there’s an encouraging guide to read if the idea makes you nervous.


Driven no doubt by ‘input’ from their suppliers, the BBC have requested permission from the regulator OfCOM to be allowed to add digital restriction measures to their digital TV broadcasts. Many groups – including OSI – are concerned about this. OfCOM are seeking input on how to respond to this request. If you are a UK license-fee payer, you should write to OfCOM today and tell them how you feel about this. The Open Rights Group have everything you need to get started.

Digital Economy Bill

The Digital Economy Bill (or “#debill” to the Twittering classes) is a legislative pastiche covering a wide range of issues. There’s no doubt that the issues it addresses are important to British citizens. But the Bill seems to have been very heavily influenced (albeit with care) by lobbyists from media industries and lacks adequate protections for the rest of us.

It has been framed along the lines of “stop pirate downloaders robbing Cliff Richard of his pension” but it contains many badly considered measures that will affect our digital liberty. Worse, there has not been time spent in Parliament considering this problem. Worst of all, the Bill looks certain to be waved though on a nod and a wink following an inadequate second reading on April 6th in a big rush to avoid the election.

So what can you do?


ACTA is the so-called Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (although it covers far, far more than just the creation of counterfeit goods). This is a big topic I’ve written about here a few times. The best primer on ACTA is probably the Wikipedia page. My illustration about fungus came from a blog post of mine a while back, and you’ll like the LQN summary and the blog by Michael Geist I mentioned.

To take action, start with the action summary I suggested after my visit to FLOSS Weekly.

UK Elections

Geeks Vote Too ShirtAs political issues become more and more technology-dependent, it’s important that we ask out political representatives to get educated and pay personal attention rather than just listening to lobbyists. They are, after all, supposed to be representing us human citizens and not the interests of abstract legal-fiction corporations. Both DeBill and the surveillance society in the UK come from listening to to too many lobbyists and not enough voters. They need to know that geeks vote too.

What can you do?

  • Why not join in with the Vote Geek community? There’s no better way to focus attention on digital democracy than to ask informed questions about it.
  • Upload election leaflets at The Straight Choice to help create transparency over election tactics.

Thanks for listening and for visiting my web site – why not subscribe and follow me on twitter?  🙂

✍ Actually I Do Care

§ There was an article on Boing Boing over the weekend that includes a leaked copy of an e-mail sent by Richard Mollett, head of BPI (that’s the UK’s version of RIAA). He provides his key constituents with a round-up on news on the Digital Economy Bill, the legislative omnibus for all that’s bad in ACTA and the UK’s equivalent of the DMCA. Apparently, Mollet believes there is no groundswell of opposition for the Digital Economy Bill and that MPs will just wave it through for lack of popular concern. Continue reading

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