The debate over the Digital Economy Bill in the UK (the attempt to ratchet up copyright law to repay favors to an entertainment industry that is slow to adapt) has taken an odd twist. Cory Doctorow over at Boing Boing has the details
of a leaked memo from the BPI
(pdf) to a bunch of recording industry execs and lobbyists, that details the state of the bill and the ongoing strategy for getting it approved. There are a few items worth noting:
- The BPI seems to think that the UK intelligence community is now the biggest threat to stopping the bill. Seriously. Apparently, UK spies are afraid that passing this bill will drive a very large number of people to switch to using encrypted internet tools, making it that much more difficult to spy on them. This may be an accurate concern, but it's surprising to hear that the intelligence community is now considered the biggest hurdle to getting the bill passed. Apparently, the BPI is fairly unconcerned with consumer rights groups. The BPI seems so paranoid about the intelligence community, that it actually suggests in the memo that the British spying agency MI5 may have paid for a recent survey released by the ISP Talk Talk, saying that 71% of those 18-34 years old would continue to file share, using "undetectable means."
The memo also mocks the fact that this particular bill now has the Open Rights Group on the same side of an issue as MI5 -- when the two are normally somewhat diametrically opposed.
- While the BPI sounds fairly confident that the bill will get through, it recognizes that it could get stalled if enough Members of Parliament start asking questions about the speed with which the bill is being pushed through:
As for the House of Commons -- which will be sent the Bill next week -- there is a strange sense of detachment. MPs with whom we spoke back in Autum are already resigned to the fact that they will have minimum input into the provisions from this point on, given the lack of time for detailed scrutiny. One leading backbencher has told us that there is "little point in meeting, since the Bill will be determined at wash-up". That said, John Whittingdale -- an inveterate "timing sceptic" (i.e. he's for the Bill but doesn't think it will get through in time) has said this week that he still thinks it could be lost if enough MPs protest at not having the opportunity to scrutinise it. Whilst true in constitutional theory terms, the hard politics of the situation makes it seem unlikely. And inveterate opponents like Derek Wyatt and Tom Watson continue to blog and tweet with critical comments, but there is not the sense of a groundswell of massive opposition to the Bill.
In other words: if you live in the UK, now is the time to start speaking up and contacting your elected officials, as well as letting others know that a bill to greatly take away your rights is about to be pushed through the House of Commons, unless you speak up now.
- Finally, among the "upcoming" activities, the memo mentions that on Wednesday the 18th, there will be a release of a report from TERA on "The importance of saving jobs in the EU's Creative Industries." We see these types of reports all the time, and they're usually poorly thought out and poorly argued, assuming, incorrectly, that a loss of jobs in one part of an industry might not be made up elsewhere, and rarely (if ever) paying attention to the fact that artificially propping up one part of the industry has massive negative consequences for other areas in the economy. So let's see what this report says. But assuming you start seeing press reports about this later this week, make sure to read through them with a critical eye.