UK Labour Party Claims 'Innocent Error' Absolves It Of Infringement — But Where Is The 'Innocent Error' Defense In The Digital Economy Act?

from the curious dept

We were just noting that the UK’s Labour Party appeared to have egregiously infringed on the copyrights of a television program with its campaign poster for the second time, and Shane Richmond, over at the Telegraph, points us to an even more blatant infringement by the same party. In this case, the party put out a pamphlet that used a blogger’s photo entirely without permission and against his wishes (he’s voting for a different party).

Richmond contacted the Labour Party to get their comments on both situations. On copying the television poster, the comment was:

“We only bought the digital posters for a set period and that period has now passed.”

On the situation with the blogger’s photograph, the party responded:

“It appears in this instance that one of our design team has made an innocent error which we regret.”

Now, both of these responses are quite interesting, because having dug through the Digital Economy Act (no longer the Digital Economy Bill, now that it’s been rammed through Parliament), I’m having trouble finding the defenses it includes for “I only infringed for a little while, and that period has passed” or the “innocent error” defense.

As Richmond notes, does this mean that when someone is accused of infringement under the Digital Economy Act, they’ll be able to respond:

“Yes, I downloaded your new film but that was an innocent error which I regret.”

After all, if that response is good enough for the party that wrote the new law, stood behind it forcefully, and rushed it through the House of Commons with basically no debate, then shouldn’t it be good enough for UK citizens as well?

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Comments on “UK Labour Party Claims 'Innocent Error' Absolves It Of Infringement — But Where Is The 'Innocent Error' Defense In The Digital Economy Act?”

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55 Comments
Crosbie Fitch (profile) says:

Who needs evidence?

I’m surprised people are actually waiting for evidence to materialise – of the Labour party’s infringement.

As anyone should know by now, evidence isn’t required. You need only SUSPECT or ACCUSE a party of infringement (a few times), and then measures can be taken against them.

They can then pay for an appeal – if they can afford to PROVE they didn’t infringe.

In fact if you think it’s likely that the Labour party’s website might infringe copyright at some point in the future, you can ask all UK ISPs for it to be censored – and they have to bear any costs if they refuse and the court upholds the injunction.

It’s a bad day when people believe 18th century privileges are rights, justice is being able to pay for the opportunity to prove your innocence, suspicion constitutes grounds to presume guilt, and interrogation of such ‘suspects’ warrants any trauma not evidently attributable to subsequent death.

Idiocracy is upon us.

Hephaestus (profile) says:

Re: Who needs evidence?

“You need only SUSPECT or ACCUSE a party of infringement (a few times), and then measures can be taken against them.”

“if they can afford to PROVE they didn’t infringe.”

I really appreciate and enjoy those lines. It reminds me of the inquisition, the peoples republic of chinas re-education through labor, the Salem witch trials, and the thought police of 1984. The though police whose charter was to find and eliminate members of society who were capable of the mere thought of challenging ruling authority. To the politicians of the UK I say well done. Welcome to an era of unintended orwellian consequences.

Hephaestus (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Who needs evidence?

Agreed. What I find funny is how often laws are placed on the books that will do nothing to protect those they are intended to protect and often do the exact opposite. In the case of the digital economy bill-act they are setting the entertainment industry up for alternatives to emerge. Alternatives that the entertainment industry has no control over.

In history, attempts to control the entertainment people seek through legislation have never worked and always backfire. Drugs, alcohol, sex, communication, music, video games, books, art, specific topics of discussion, all come to mind. In each and every case they have led to criminal organizations taking profit. In the case of three strikes it will be hiding who you are online, online id theft, and software to break peoples crypto on WiFi.

It is going to be fun to watch unfold …

Crosbie Fitch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Who needs evidence?

The proverbial ‘interesting time’.

The slight difference we can observe with corporations is that they aren’t quite as sophisticated as the church or dictatorial regimes and will press for far more cultural repression than will profit them, so much more that it’ll quickly exceed the breaking point.

No-one is doing more to hasten the abolition of monopolies than the monopolists themselves.

Hephaestus (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Who needs evidence?

“No-one is doing more to hasten the abolition of monopolies than the monopolists themselves.”

Agreed, the over reaching will cause a backlash and a breaking of the system they are attempting to create and control. What is going to cause the eventual downfall of these old school media distribution monopolies is differing business interests. Each sub group is seeking its share of the pie. In each case its either a different yet overlapping piece of pie or a totally different pie.

They have no mutually agreed upon path to follow. The lack of a path to follow is simple, there isnt one. The internet obsoletes them for media distribution.

The real kicker of this is, this is capitalism at work at its best. You have competing and overlapping business systems all trying to gain greater profits from an ever diminishing pie. The trends and statistics all say that people are finding other things (texting, social sites, games, netflix, unlimited phone service, web browsing, blogs, rss feeds, making music, making videos, live music) to do with their time. The slice available for old media is getting smaller and will continue to do so. Something like a FaceBook site for the creation and collaboration of music, Video, and remixing its over for the old media companies if done correctly.

Natanael L (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Who needs evidence?

“Something like a FaceBook site for the creation and collaboration of music, Video, and remixing its over for the old media companies if done correctly.”

GNU Social with a proper media creating and remixing plugin could do this!
First we have to make it work well, then we have to get enough (at least semi-)professionals to make cool videos and great music, and then we have to convince the public that it’s easy to join in.
Voilá, done!

Any Mouse says:

Re: Where Is The 'Innocent Error' Defense In The Digital Economy Act?

Linked article does not match with argument. Could you explain how a grandmother being arrested for buying cough medicine is selective enforcement? (BTW, that particular law was meant for pharmacies to NOT SELL MORE than a specified amount to a single person in a week.) Please, be more detailed in your trolling, hmm?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Where Is The 'Innocent Error' Defense In The Digital Economy Act?

“Could you explain how a grandmother being arrested for buying cough medicine is selective enforcement?”

Why, little fanboy, would I care to explain something I didn’t claim?

“BTW, that particular law was meant for pharmacies to NOT SELL MORE than a specified amount to a single person in a week.”

Yes, but Mike thought it should be selectively enforced. It seems that Mike is only in favor of selective selective enforcement. In other words, only when *he* says so.

“Please, be more detailed in your trolling, hmm?”

Please, pull your head out of Mike’s ass before commenting, hmm?

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Where Is The 'Innocent Error' Defense In The Digital Economy Act?

Personally, I don’t have a problem with selective enforcement, as long as there is proper oversight. When a group can choose not to enforce a law against themselves, there is a problem. Or if two groups (maybe the equivalent of Congress and the Justice Dept in the UK?) are scratching each others’ backs in a similar manner.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Where Is The 'Innocent Error' Defense In The Digital Economy Act?

Obvious troll is obvious.

I’m sure you’re intelligent enough to understand the point of the blog post is to highlight the hypocrisy of a party that pushed through an ill thought out law. Where you fail is your weak attempt to derail that point.

The simple fact is the Act allows three accusations be levied against an individual and they face serious consequences. Yet, the campaigners for the party who rush through the law engage in wholesale copyright infringement on multiple occasions and their only response is “meh, we’re cool”.

Indeed.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Where Is The 'Innocent Error' Defense In The Digital Economy Act?

It’s called “selective enforcement”, Mike. I thought you were all for that kind of thing.

Wow. Reading comprehension fail of impressive proportions.

1. In that other story, I pointed out that the law was, in fact, a problem. I did not say I was “all for” selective enforcement.
2. That involved a CRIMINAL STATUTE where the police/gov’t have leeway in determining who they prosecute, not a civil issue.
3. That said, GIVEN the situation, I pointed out that DECIDING to move forward with putting her in jail was clearly a mistake.

That’s not being “all for” selective enforcement.

Surely you don’t think they intended the law to apply in situations like this, do you?

Actually, if you heard the Labour party defend the DEB, it was designed EXACTLY for this kind of situation. Using the work of someone else without a license.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Where Is The 'Innocent Error' Defense In The Digital Economy Act?

“I did not say I was “all for” selective enforcement.”

Wow. Talk about “reading comprehension fail of impressive proportions”. I said *I* thought you were “all for” selective enforcement. I never said you used those exact two words. Or maybe you’re trying to make up some kind of straw man you can knock down by pointing out that you never used those two words. Well guess what, nobody said you did. Learn to read and quit acting like a five-year-old.

“That involved a CRIMINAL STATUTE where the police/gov’t have leeway in determining who they prosecute, not a civil issue.”

Yah, and again, nobody said otherwise. But you know what else? They’re BOTH LAWS. What are you trying to say, that criminal laws should be selectively enforced, but things like copyright laws should be enforced to the extreme letter of the law? Yeah, sure. That sounds more like a copyright industry lobbyist. Flip-flop, flip-flop, make up your mind Mike.

“That said, GIVEN the situation, I pointed out that DECIDING to move forward with putting her in jail was clearly a mistake.”

Where YOU pick the situations, right? Of course, it’s all so clear now.

“That’s not being “all for” selective enforcement.”

Sure it is, only where YOU’RE the one selecting when laws should be enforced. How convient.

“Actually, if you heard the Labour party defend the DEB, it was designed EXACTLY for this kind of situation.”

Actually, I don’t remember the Labour party EVER talking about how bad they were and how they thus needed to pass a law to punish themselves. Har! Good one Mike!

But seriously, do you really expect us to believe that they expected the DEB to be used against them like this? Not likely. Get real Mike, that’s not very believable and certainly doesn’t do much for your credibility. Arguing for something (selective enforcement) when it coincides with your position and against it when it doesn’t only makes you look like a garden variety hypocrite.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Where Is The 'Innocent Error' Defense In The Digital Economy Act?

But seriously, do you really expect us to believe that they expected the DEB to be used against them like this? Not likely.

Considering the rain season this year, it’s not surprising that you found enough weed to make a straw man that large. Pretty funny too, TAM.

Marcel de Jong (profile) says:

So I make it 3-1

3 strikes for the Labour party
http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20100406/1251578900.shtml
http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20100425/2135299164.shtml
http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20100426/1133049170.shtml

and 1 strike for the Tories:
http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20100418/2325419057.shtml

So far… Let’s see how far the counter will go until someone actually closes any of their internet access.

Anonymous Coward says:

“After all, if that response is good enough for the party that wrote the new law, stood behind it forcefully, and rushed it through the House of Commons with basically no debate, then shouldn’t it be good enough for UK citizens as well? “

Clearly you’re delusional. The answer, of course, is NO!!!! The laws don’t apply to the elite like they apply to everyone else. You should know that by now.

hmm says:

so what happens if someone with a fair amount of ready cash and a grudge against the labour party (you know who you are!) PURCHASES the copyright items in question and then legally goes after the labor party to shut off their internet access etc before the election?

entirely possible (and quite do-able before may 6 if anyone with some ready money and a sense of humor is reading this!)

even if the labor party’s internet access isn’t shut off by may 6th, it would sure as HELL make all the papers on may 5th that someone had launched 3 seperate complaints….

MarxIzalias says:

String them up by thier own boot laces.

If a government by the people for the people wants a people to pay for a crime they didn’t want, then they should be held accountable for any action which infringes that crime.

(Labour) Do unto others as you would have done unto you, your a disgrace of a party and I certainly will not be voting for you.

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