Tag Archives: digital economy bill

Journalism is not a zero-sum game

Last Friday I took part in a debate organised by UNESCO to promote World Press Freedom Day (full video here). Lined up to argue in support of the motion that “Unregulated political comment online helps the democratic process” were Sunny Hundal of the Liberal Conspiracy blog; the founder of MORI, Sir Robert Worcester, and, speaking from the floor, me.

Arguing against the motion were Westminster University’s Professor Steven Barnett; the BBC’s Chief Operating Officer Caroline Thomson; and, speaking from the floor, Nick Jones, formerly of the same corporation.

With an audience of diverse professional backgrounds packing the Frontline Club, it was a healthy discussion – although if you’ve attended a journalism event in the last few years you’ll have recognised some of the threads throughout, as the usual straw men were wheeled out to justify either regulating the internet or ignoring it altogether: ‘it’s not representative‘; ‘it’s just sound and fury, signifying nothing‘ (actually, no one quoted Shakespeare, sadly).

I’ve addressed some of the general anti-web arguments in another blog post, but I thought I’d add a couple of specific observations about the thinking behind the arguments being put forward at the event.

The Zero Sum view of journalism

Thomson’s argument (listen in full here) started with the idea that political comment online could not be left in isolation, but needed to be selected and presented within an editorial context and analysis – not surprisingly, the sort of context and background that the BBC itself could provide.

Members of the public did not have the “understanding” that journalists could provide, said Thomson*. Continue reading

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'Peer to peer protests' cost the UK economy £4bn – new legislation drafted

Here’s a little something I put together last night to keep myself amused as I watched the “front bench stitch-up” that was the Digital Economy Bill finally get pushed through. It’s just something to keep me sane…

(on a side note, I tried out YouTube’s captioning tool for the first time – the service synchronises perfectly)

Digital Economy Bill – those who cannot learn from history…

…are doomed to repeat it. Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group on the revisions to Clause 17 of the Digital Economy Bill:

“Individuals and small businesses would be open to massive ‘copyright attacks’ that could shut them down, just by the threat of action.”

“This is exactly how libel law works today: suppressing free speech by the unwarranted threat of legal action. The expense and the threat are enough to create a ‘chilling effect’.”

Photographers to lose copyright and right to photograph in public (cached)

The following post originally appeared on PhotoActive, but had to be taken down when the site host HostPapa complained about the traffic. I’ve offered to host it here.

With photographers about to lose copyright protection on their images, and the Government to curb their rights to take pictures in public, Philip Dunn looks more closely at these outrageous proposals and how they will affect you.

Photographers to lose copyright protection of their work

Photographers' Rights to be taken away

This startling and outrageous proposal will become UK law if The Digital Economy Bill currently being pushed through Parliament is passed. This Bill is sponsored by the unelected Government Minister, Lord Mandelson.

Let’s look at the way this law will affect your copyright:

The idea that the author of a photograph has total rights over his or her own work – as laid out in International Law and The Copyright Act of 1988 – will be utterly ignored. If future, if you wish to retain any control over your work, you will have to register that work (and each version of it) with a new agency yet to be set up.

Details about how this agency will be set up – and what fees will be charged for each registration – have been kept deliberated vague in Lord Mandelson’s Bill. If ever there was a licence to print money, this is it. You will pay.

If they are not registered with this quango agency, your images can be plundered and used anywhere, by anyone – on the understanding that the thief makes a very minimal effort to find you – the author of the image.

Currently, International Law, through the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, recognises the ownership rights of the creator of the ‘property’. This enables image owners to control how their work is used, and whether it is used at all.

International Law will be ignored by the British Government and this new Act will overturn more than 150 years of UK copyright law.

If ever there was a massive step forward to a police state and suppression of information, this is it. Most of this thieves’ charter is not even going through Parliament as primary legislation. The Digital Economy bill Section 42 sections 16a, 16b, 16c enable ad hoc regulation by Mandelson’s office without further legislation. None of that will never be voted on.

Continue reading

How do I hate thee, Digital Economy Bill? Let me count the ways…

1. It’s the economy, stupid

Last week’s official advice (Word doc) on the bill ‘would effectively “outlaw open Wi-Fi for small businesses”‘ said Lilian Edwards, professor of internet law at Sheffield University.

“This is going to be a very unfortunate measure for small businesses, particularly in a recession, many of whom are using open free Wi-Fi very effectively as a way to get the punters in,” Edwards said.

It also makes it harder and more expensive for the sort of mobile young business people who frequent these shops. In Birmingham, for example, many entrepreneurs meet in places like Urban Coffee Company and Coffee Lounge to network, exchange ideas, and work (often at the same time). Take that away and you’re making it more expensive for those people to do business, it’s as simple as that.

In addition, the likes of Clause 17 (see below) make it difficult for any business to plan and innovate in an environment which can be changed on the whim of the Secretary of State.

2. Death to open access

Last week’s document would also “leave libraries and universities in an uncertain position,” adds Edwards. From ZDNet:

“Universities cannot be exempted, [Lord] Young said [in the document], because some universities already have stringent anti-file-sharing rules for their networks, and “it does not seem sensible to force those universities who already have a system providing very effective action against copyright infringement to abandon it and replace it with an alternative”.”

In fact, the government would do well to look more closely at just how ‘effective’ those university measures have been. I know of students who have had internet access cut off without notice for apparently completely legal activity. I guess you’d call that ‘collateral damage’, and it’s a sign of things to come if we extend the principle throughout the country.

There’s a principle of open access to knowledge here that lies at the heart of what libraries and universities do. Restricting their (already hamstrung) ability to offer that is of real concern.

3. Unchecked power

Clause 17. Backed by the NUJ. Are you insane?

Clause 11. From SamKnows:

“What’s rapidly becoming the textbook example of this is the way that legislation designed to freeze terrorist funds was used against one of Iceland’s banks, Landisbanki, during the country’s recent financial crisis.

“[Francis Davey, a practising barrister and legal advisor, says] “Clause 11 could easily be used to force the blocking of specific sites or group of sites, such as those that have been identified as having unlawful content by an organisation like the Internet Watch Foundation; or the choking of specific forms of P2P protocol,” he told Samknows. “There is not even a requirement that the subscribers to ISP’s are made aware of technical measures which could be imposed by stealth. The fact that there is no need to publish or consult on the use of the power means that there is minimal external quality control, or publicity which might serve in lieu of parliamentary scrutiny.””

4. The logic behind it is flawed, the data is skewed, and most people don’t want it

There’s a great piece by Rory Cellan-Jones that identifies some of the data that is lacking surrounding the bill. Meanwhile, hello everyone from Mark Thomas and Google, Facebook, Yahoo and eBay, to MI5, Talk Talk and, yes, Stephen Fry, the Serious and Organised Crime Agency, Metropolitan Police, Consumer Focus, er, the public according to polls.

What can you do?

You don’t even have to take to the streets…

You can also receive email and RSS updates for the Bill via the Parliament website