Two Contradictory Paths In The UK When It Comes To Copyright Issues

from the which-one-is-more-reasonable dept

It's been a bit hard to understand what's been going on in the UK concerning copyright reform when we keep hearing two very contradictory messages. On one side, there's the ridiculous Digital Economy Act, which was proposed by the unelected, debated by the ignorant and voted on by the absent in order to put in place much stricter copyright laws, including putting much of the burden on online service providers. That process is continuing to expand with plans to make the censorship part of the bill even clearer. Those behind the law, when pressed, admitted that they had absolutely no evidence to support the claimed need for this law.

And yet, while all of this was happening, there was also the Hargreaves Report, which was a very reasonable look at copyright issues, which listed out a bunch of pretty tame recommendations (so tame that creating a "fair use" policy was seen as too controversial). Of course, it also was pretty clear that the UK should stop its faith-based copyright regulating, and no more changes should be made to the laws without solid economic evidence.

So guess which process is getting attacked? You guessed it. The latter process, as Member of Parliament (MP) Peter Wishart apparently went on the attack against the Hargreaves report and the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) that commissioned it. Peter Bradwell, over at the Open Rights Group, hits back by noting that it's pretty ridiculous to question the IPO while ignoring everything going on with the Digital Economy Act, which came out of a different part of the goverment: the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). Bradwell's article breaks down the differences here:

So to caricature the two departments: one is asking for evidence and consulting widely and openly. One has spent the past few years consulting narrowly, opaquely, and with no evidence or analysis to speak of.

The IPO come under fire in Peter Wishart's speech for being sloppy with evidence and ignoring the creative industries. DCMS' proposals are to be 'got on with'. He calls the IPO 'a bureaucratic front to devalue the people whom it is supposed to support' which the Government must 'get to grips with'. 

That is slightly strange. The issue of policy making for copyright involves managing a complex mix of evidence, principle and opinion. Disagreement, and the management and channeling of that disagreement in the formulation of policy, are two separate things. Whatever position one takes on the substance of this debate about IP, there is a right way and a wrong way to make public policy.  It has to be democratically legitimate, open, transparent and involve proper debate. Over the past 12 months, the IPO has beaten DCMS hands down on that metric. 

Yeah, but being open, transparent and relying on actual evidence isn't just hard work -- the big content gatekeepers don't like it when that happens. And we have to support them at all costs, apparently...
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Filed Under: blocking, censorship, copyright, dcms, hargreaves, ipo, reform


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  1. icon
    G Thompson (profile), 15 Feb 2012 @ 1:10am

    "proposed by the unelected, debated by the ignorant and voted on by the absent"

    Please someone ring the Oxford Dictionary people. This is by far the most succinct description of modern politics that as ever been written.!

    Think I'll mount this on a wooden plaque to bash public servants (and pollies) over the head with when they come to my offices

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