Tom Chance - The Digital Economy Bill

24 March 2010

Tom Chance will be speaking for the Green Party at the demonstration against the Digital Economy Bill tonight (24th March) in Westminster. Here are his prepared remarks. Tom is the party's spokesperson on open source/IT issues, and a local election candidate in Southwark (The Lane):

How would you react if you came home to find you had been forcibly disconnected from the internet? Or if half the country were blocked from watching your company's videos on YouTube? These could happen if the Digital Economy Bill is rushed through Parliament without debate.

In the past year, the Cabinet Office have been demonstrating that government can evolve, launching the open Data.gov initiative and pushing for greater civic participation and transparency using the internet. But this Bill represents the last thrashing of the tail of the dinosaur Labour Government. They are looking at the internet as feudal lords might have seen the free market: a new scary threat that must be suppressed to protect those sections of the creative industries that cannot adapt.

The Bill takes three backward steps:

- It forces internet service providers to disconnect you from the internet if somebody has used your connection to persistently download illegal content. That could be you, your housemate, family member or neighbour. No due process, no fine, just disconnection.

- It hands sweeping powers over copyright to a politician without proper Parliamentary oversight, allowing them to further extend and complicate this arcane system without proper debate.

- In an amendment put forward by Liberal Democrat Lords, it also forces internet service providers to block web sites if big business says they infringe copyright. This would have a "chilling effect", making people more reluctant to offer services that might attract this draconian attention.

The Green Party adopted clear policy a few years back that would keep the UK at the cutting edge of technology and the creative industries.

We see no benefit in prosecuting people sharing content for personal use. We would focus the government's attention on supporting open data, open source, creative ways of evolving to create exciting new markets for small businesses and new opportunities for artists.

Standing here today reminds me of the fight against software patents, another attack by feudal big business on the market of small entrepreneurs and enthusiasts who develop most of the software we use.

We mobilised hundreds of volunteer lobbyists and crawled over Brussels for years, defeating and holding the proposal back.

This evening, it feels like we are on the verge of a similar movement emerging in the UK, able to lobby in the tens of thousands against draconian laws, and to call for our MPs to at least take the trouble to debate it.


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