Tom Watson and Don Foster have placed calls in the UK Parliament for information on the ACTA . But are they asking the right questions?


The UK Member of Parliament Tom Watson, who is courageously opposing his own party on the issue of copyright enforcment, has asked in Parliament for information on the ACTA process. ACTA is a proposed  international agreement which will impose new copyright enforcement measures onto Internet users worldwide, and it has serious implications for civil liberties and freedom of speech.  


Questioning one of the  Ministers from the Department of

Business, Innovation and Skills, David Lammy, he asked  if the UK would try to  get agreement from  the other ACTA participants to release the latest draft. 


 The answer he got  was worthy of ‘Yes Minister' as Lammy on the one hand said he would ‘seek transparency' and on the other that ‘it is not the practice in trade negotiations' to disclose material.


Note that Lammy said last year that the UK would not cut off Internet users  - widely reported in the media -  and yet his colleague only last week said in the House of Lords that ‘we are agreed on a graduated response' .  Users will get warnings before they are cut off.  ( See Lord Young of Norwood Green  in the Digital Economy Bill house of Lords committee stage, col. 1308).



Anyway,  Lammy is not  the Minister to ask. He is Minister for Intellectual Property. The ACTA-style copyright enforcement measures for the UK are in   the Digital Economy Bill, which amends the Communications Act,  and is being steered by Lord Mandelson. It is  co-sponsored by Ben Bradshaw of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

The Minister who was to pilot the Digital Economy bill through the House of Commons, Sion Simon, will be standing down as an MP and therefore will no longer take on this responsibility. 


Don Foster , of the LibDems has tabled an Early Day Motion on ACTA . He is concerned that ACTA may force us to re-write the Digital Economy Bill.Early Day Motions are non-legislative, but if they get sufficient signatures, they may obtain a Parliamentary debate on the topic. 


Unfortunately, ACTA will not stop anything that the UK government is trying to do. The UK proposals for copyright enforcement in the mis-named Digital Economy Bill, have the full support of the rights-holder industries and will not be over-ridden by ACTA.


The real question is whether the UK is more draconian than ACTA?


This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial-Share Alike 2.5 UK:England and Wales License. It may be used for non-commercial purposes only, and the author's name should be attributed. The correct attribution for this article is: Monica Horten (2010) UK politicians try to lever open ACTA 6 February 2010