Last Thursday the Open Rights Group along with many others made a submission in response to the Digital Britain Report.
Less than 12 hours later, we found David Lammy and Stephen Carter launching a discussion paper into the shape of the ‘Digital Rights Agency’. It is hard to believe that either minister had processed the responses on exactly this question in the space of twelve hours.
Clearly David Lammy and Stephen Carter had already decided, before reading the responses, what conclusions they would come to.
The discussion paper is available at http://www.ipo.gov.uk/digitalbritain.pdf and it makes interesting reading. For example, on page 3, Carter and Lammy say:
But much of that should be for industry to decide since if it is going to work then fundamentally this has to be an industry owned, industry led and industry run body.
On page 11:
In the longer term education of consumers about the damage that is done by unlawful activity, threatening the health of our creative industries, will be critical.
But on page 20 they add:
The agency will need credibility with consumers – it must not be seen as an industry conspiracy to do things to, and against the interests of, consumers. How should they be represented – and should they have a vote?
Which is in conflict with their statement on page 3. If the proposed DRA is to be run by the content corporations, putting out pro-MPAA and pro-RIAA propaganda, then broadband users will treat it with contempt and derision.
(Incidently, it’s telling the the paper refers to broadband users as “consumers”, as if their only role is to fork out cash to ISPs and content companies. That represents a fundamental misunderstanding of what the Internet is about. The Internet is not a fancy form of TV where mindless drones sit passively and have content pushed at them; on the contrary Internet users are active, producing their own content. They write emails and blogs; keep in touch with their friends; campaign about the issues of the day and contact their elected representatives; meet like-minded people; contribute to open source / open content projects such as Wikipedia, Open Street Map and Linux; put up pictures and video on Flickr or YouTube; buy and sell things on eBay; they run businesses and find work on the Internet. And yes, some of them are also interested in the content put out by the likes of the MPAA and RIAA, but that is only a very minor part of what the Internet is about. If the net contained no content from the RIAA or MPAA, I would still see it as a vital part of modern life, but I would have zero interest in connecting to a network which only contained the offerings of the content corporations.)
Carter and Lammy also ponder whether the proposed Digital Rights Agency should merely be a talking shop or whether it would have the power to make people do things (specifically the power to force ISPs to take action against alleged illegal downloaders).
If the DRA is to have real power, then broadband users (note not “consumers”, see above why that term is both insulting and wrong) shouldn’t just have “a vote”, they should have the majority of votes on it. The alternative would be for the content corporations to control how people use the Internet. Are we really to see the spectacle of a Labour government — a Labour government! — doing the bidding of foreign multinationals at the expense of British workers and voters?