New Labour is perfectly alive and well, whatever else they’d like you to think. Ed Miliband may preach the opposite, but his party is more authoritarian than ever. From Cory Doctorow:
The UK Labour party’s conference is underway in Liverpool, and party bigwigs are presenting their proposals for reinvigorating Labour after its crushing defeat in the last election. The stupidest of these proposals to date will be presented today, when Ivan Lewis, the shadow culture secretary, will propose a licensing scheme for journalists through a professional body that will have the power to forbid people who breach its code of conduct from doing journalism in the future.
Given that “journalism” presently encompasses “publishing accounts of things you’ve seen using the Internet” and “taking pictures of stuff and tweeting them” and “blogging” and “commenting on news stories,” this proposal is even more insane than the tradition “journalist licenses” practiced in totalitarian nations.
I don’t honestly know how people feel they can vote for this party anymore. The state does not have all the answers to everything, and a lack of obedience to the state wasn’t the problem at the heart of the #hackgate scandal; the NUJ code of conduct is already a perfectly appropriate means of holding professional journalism to account. Let me remind you News International is a union busting organisation, entirely disinterested in ‘leftie’ good practice, and they were entirely supported in this by Tories and New Labour alike. Lewis’ moronic proposal comes across as an attempt to avoid his party’s share of the blame and recast all journalists as the enemy. In or out of office, he mustn’t be allowed to succeed.
Last night I attended the demonstration outside parliament, organised by the Open Rights Group. They, I and others are determined to prevent the arbitrary passing of the Digital Economy Bill in the pre-general election ‘wash up’ period, where bills are voted on without debate or parliamentary scrutiny. Currently Harriet Harman, the Leader of the House, is signalling that our wishes will be ignored and the most draconian, pro-corporate, anti-civil rights legislation yet attempted by New Labour will be waved through, regardless of the consequences. Under no circumstances should that be allowed to happen, and it was heartening to speak to Tom Watson MP after the demo – he made it clear that the organisation’s campaign to lobby MPs into demanding a debate for the Bill (which because of the limited ‘wash up’ period would mean either killing the Bill or forcing the removal of the contentious clauses 11-15) was beginning to have an effect. We must redouble our efforts, and watch the video for very clear reasons why. I spoke on Tuesday with Shami Chakrabarti from Liberty, who denounced the Bill as an attack on due process and the rule of law. She’s right, and it should concern us all.
Cory Doctorow explains in a nutshell why Peter Mandelson’s Digital Economy Bill is so wrong:
And the BBC has conducted a survey which has found some interesting attitudes which back his perspective up:
Almost four in five people around the world believe that access to the internet is a fundamental right, a poll for the BBC World Service suggests.
The survey – of more than 27,000 adults across 26 countries – found strong support for net access on both sides of the digital divide.
Countries such as Finland and Estonia have already ruled that access is a human right for their citizens.
International bodies such as the UN are also pushing for universal net access.
“The right to communicate cannot be ignored,” Dr Hamadoun Toure, secretary-general of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), told BBC News.
“The internet is the most powerful potential source of enlightenment ever created.”
He said that governments must “regard the internet as basic infrastructure – just like roads, waste and water”.
“We have entered the knowledge society and everyone must have access to participate.”
Interestingly though in Britain 55% of those surveyed believed there was also a case for some governmental regulation of the Internet. The gap between attitudes is what Mandelson is counting on in order to get the Bill through before the general election. Due process and the rule of law would continue their decline under this draconian piece of legislation, and this and successive governments would not just be allowed to censor the Internet as they saw fit (and in secret), but they would also severely damage the most important new communication resource since the telephone. For what? Appeasement of the Labour Party’s corporate friends? What’s getting lost in this argument are the facts about filesharing:
- internet ‘pirates’ spend more on copyrighted material than they download;
- the music industry isn’t threatened by ‘piracy’, nor is the film industry
Should it then be possible to knock out university and library wifi connections (or most likely encourage them to knock themselves out for fear of future infringement) because of the possibility that one user might anger a corporate copyright holder? Should it be possible for corporate rights holders to bully websites into going offline? Should it then be possible to throw whole families off the Internet even though that family might already spend more on music and films than most other families? What about blocking websites if one of their users infringes copyright? Our priorities are all wrong. Join me to protest this disgraceful piece of legislation the week after next outside parliament. No doubt The Prince of Darkness will get his way; he always seems to. But as with the Iraq War those of us who can see what’s coming need to stand up for what’s right.
Lily Allen’s shrill and ultimately hypocritical argument that filesharing causes blanket damage to musicians, and that Peter Mandelson’s threat to throw users off the internet is a valid one, is masking the true problem here. Doctorow suggests:
Copyright is problematic for everyone: musicians, fans, bloggers. The absence of clear affirmative rights to make personal copies, to share with your friends, to copy for the purposes of discussion and commentary (as opposed to the fuzzy and difficult-to-interpret fair use guidelines, which have been further confused by the entertainment industry’s bold attempts to convince us all that they don’t matter and can’t be relied upon) means that we’re all in a state of constant infringement.
A law that no one understands and no one abides by is no law at all. Parts of copyright — the right to regulate how commercial licenses with industrial entities work — are really important to me and to all working artists. But if we continue to try to expand copyright to cover everything, every interaction that involves a copy (which is every interaction these days), then the broad consensus that copyright is nonsense will continue to grow, and we’ll lose the good stuff as well as the ridiculous stuff.
He has a good point. The precursor blog to this site was once set upon by a newspaper journalist whose (uncredited) piece I used (and fully linked to/did not take credit for) to illustrate the impact of an entirely unrelated story. Was I breaching copyright? I don’t think so – he was of an entirely different opinion though. The issue at hand in this debate about filesharing is surely about copyright reform – addressing the enormous gap between creators and rights holders. I’ll see if I can nudge The Secret Musician into posting their opinions about that! Why though has the Featured Artists Coalition moved closer to Allen/John/Barlow/Blunt et al’s argument?
We the undersigned wish to express our support for Lily Allen in her campaign to alert music lovers to the threat that illegal downloading presents to our industry and to condemn the vitriol that has been directed at her in recent days.
Our meeting also voted overwhelmingly to support a three-strike sanction on those who persistently download illegal files, sanctions to consist of a warning letter, a stronger warning letter and a final sanction of the restriction of the infringer’s bandwidth to a level which would render file-sharing of media files impractical while leaving basic email and web access functional.
Weird. The difference between that and Mandelson’s position is marginal, and it’s not what they were arguing at the beginning of the month.
edit: I’ve just seen this story. Fascinating, and it blurs the issue even further. Why would the FAC have a different position to Allen one day, then “cheer her” as she entered their meeting last night? Intriguing that she should be there, even more curious that what appears to be a massive compromise (read Ed O’Brien’s comments) should be in her favour…