Hello folks, today I have a very serious matter to discuss with you. The Digital Economy Bill is being passed through parliament in the UK right now. This is the law which would allow UK citizens to be disconnected from the Internet on the accusation of file sharing or piracy, not conviction, accusation. As a musician, online broadcaster and member of the Open Rights Group this is obviously an important matter to me. At the moment certain members of the government are trying to force this bill into law without a proper debate in parliament. This is a bill which goes against the advice of the Government’s own Digital Britain report published last year, which clearly stated Internet disconnection should not be used as a punishment.
I have written to my local MP today to ask them to call for a full debate on this before any law is made. Whatever you think of the Digital Economy Bill and whichever side you consider yourself to be on, passing this law without so much as a proper discussion has to be wrong. It doesn’t benefit any of us. Don’t let large media companies make laws like this through the back door, demand proper democracy!
If you live in the UK I urge you to write to your MP too and make them aware of the situation. I’ve copied my letter below. I sent this to my local MP Stephen Hesford today. You can find details of your own MP and how to contact them through the fabulous writetothem.com
Remember, they work for us and we have a right to ask them questions but please be polite at all times. Abusive rants will do our argument no good. You can also use the 38 Degrees website to make this process even simpler.
Thanks for reading
Dear Stephen Hesford,
I’m writing to you today because I’m very worried the Government are planning to rush the Digital Economy Bill into law without a full Parliamentary debate. An important change to the law like this must be properly reviewed and debated in the house not just rammed through carelessly, as I’m sure you appreciate.
Industry experts, internet service providers (like Talk Talk and BT) and huge internet companies like Google and Yahoo are all opposing the bill – yet the Government seems intent on forcing it through without a debate. This is obviously wrong, it’s no way to make legislation. Especially legislation that affects something so vital these days as Internet access. In today’s world we all need computer access to interact with even the government’s own services like the Inland Revenue, NHS, benefits agencies and so on. There is no burden of proof in this law, only accusation is enough to incur punishment. That has to be against the long standing principals of justice and equality we pride ourselves on in this country. Guilty until proven innocent is not justice in my view.
As someone employed in the IT industry for years and now a part-time broadcaster/journalist reporting on these matters, I worry that the people forcing this agenda don’t actually understand the full technical and social implications of their actions, not to mention the practical headaches of implementing this. What we need is time for proper research, debate and reflection, rather than a ham-fisted approach to something so vital. I am a musician and broadcaster who uses the Internet as an empowering tool that gives me opportunities I’d never get otherwise. I produce a podcast about Linux and Open Source software which now gets over 15,000 downloads per week. I believe everyone deserves the same chance to use the Internet to educate and inform themselves. There is some strange media coverage of this situation right now and the line that “the Internet is bad for musicians and must be stopped” is a complete misnomer. There are many professional musicians, artists and broadcasters on both sides of the argument. The likes of the Featured Artists Coalition (Radiohead, Billy Bragg etc) have condemned Internet disconnection as a disproportionate and heavy handed punishment. That voice needs to be heard in this debate too but it seems the people forcing this bill realise the power of the argument and would rather pass the law before it can be heard. We all want to help artists and musicians thrive in the new digital world and as a musician myself I have a vested interest in protecting that more than anyone. The Digital Economy Bill cannot be passed in it’s current state as it will do more harm than good, however good the intentions are.
As a constituent I am writing to you today to ask that you do all you can to ensure the Government doesn’t just rush the bill through and deny us our democratic right to scrutiny and debate. I am a member of the Open Rights Group in the UK and a look at their website http://openrightsgroup.org might also offer some useful information.
Thank you for your time,