Not satisfied with the powers he’ll get against filesharers in the new Digital Economy Bill — a £50,000 fine and banning from the internet — Lord Mandelson has decided that to stop illegal copying, he needs the power to make new laws by decree (i.e. statutory instrument):
Lord Mandelson is seeking to amend the laws on copyright to give the government sweeping new powers against people accused of illegal downloading.
In a letter to Harriet Harman, the leader of the house and head of the committee responsible for determining changes to such legislation, Mandelson says he is “writing to seek your urgent agreement” to changes to the 1988 Copyright, Designs and Patents Act “for the purposes of facilitating prevention or reduction of online copyright infringement”.
By writing to Harman, the business secretary is seeking to get the change made through a “statutory instrument” – in effect, an update to the existing bill that the government can push through using its parliamentary majority.
That can be done with the minimum of parliamentary time, which is already at a premium.
The letter, which is circulating inside the government, comes as ministers prepare to publish the digital economy bill at 7.30am tomorrow. That is expected to set out a “three strikes” policy under which people who are found to be illicitly downloading copyrighted material have their internet connections withdrawn after three warnings.
Lord Mandelson therefore wants to impose more impositions, over and above the already very draconian powers given to him in the Digital Economy Bill. What particular powers does he want? Cory Doctorow explains:
1. The Secretary of State would get the power to create new remedies for online infringements (for example, he could create jail terms for file-sharing, or create a “three-strikes” plan that costs entire families their internet access if any member stands accused of infringement)
2. The Secretary of State would get the power to create procedures to “confer rights” for the purposes of protecting rightsholders from online infringement. (for example, record labels and movie studios can be given investigative and enforcement powers that allow them to compel ISPs, libraries, companies and schools to turn over personal information about Internet users, and to order those companies to disconnect users, remove websites, block URLs, etc)
3. The Secretary of State would get the power to “impose such duties, powers or functions on any person as may be specified in connection with facilitating online infringement” (for example, ISPs could be forced to spy on their users, or to have copyright lawyers examine every piece of user-generated content before it goes live; also, copyright “militias” can be formed with the power to police copyright on the web)
Mandelson is also gunning for sites like YouSendIt and other services that allow you to easily transfer large files back and forth privately (I use YouSendIt to send podcasts back and forth to my sound-editor during production).
Charlotte Gore is worried this will destroy progress on the internet in Britain:
It’s terrifying stuff that, if he’s successful, will cripple Britain’s technological progress. I use a programme called, “Drop Box” and it allows me to transfer files from my MacBook to my PC using the Internet. I don’t want such files to be publicly available because they’re my own personal private files. But Mandelson wants these services to disable privacy modes so that Movie Studios can check I’m not stealing from them.
It’s all in the name of Copyright theft – otherwise known as ‘Mandelson’s extremely rich friends’. It’s crony capitalism, favouritism and economic and social planning all rolled into one horrible, toxic bomb.
Whether or not Mandelson could actually succeed in wiping out Copyright theft on the internet is academic (he can’t, as it happens, no matter what he tries). What he can do is condemn Britain to a sort of internet dark age where technology is held back if it’s a threat to the vested interests Mandelson represents.
Pirate Party Leader Andrew Robinson suggests that:
If you want to protect your freedom of speech, your privacy, your right to be considered innocent until proved guilty, then now is the time to join the Pirate Party. We need your support to field candidates that will stand up against this insanity. We must show Labour at the ballot box that we will not accept this!
Labour MP Tom Watson is also against this illiberal and dangerous proposal.
So, what can you do against this? The simplest thing is to join the facebook group against this proposal.
While you’re at it:
- Join the Pirate Party’s facebook group
- TalkTalk’s Don’t Disconnect Us campaign has a facebook group and a petition you can sign
- Join the Pirate Party and the Open Rights Group