The Digital Economy Act, and the issues raised by it, will be addressed by a new Committee of the UK Parliament. At its first meeting yesterday, it was rights-holders v citizens. But where were the telcos?
The first meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on the Digital Economy (APPG - Digital Economy) was held yesterday in the ancient and hallowed halls of the Palace of Westminster. As befits this primordial fight waged by the rights-holders, the poised and practiced music industry lobbyists squared up to the largely volunteer citizens' representatives across the room.
The rights-holders were for once not the dominant group, finding their presence matched by an equally strong citizen presence consisting of
software experts, small business, and the public sector, as well as the lobbying organisations Consumer Focus and Open Rights Group. The group that was conspicuous by its absence, was the telcos.
The chair of the new group, Eric Joyce MP, described some possible lines of action. Parliament will get to review the introduction of Technical Measures under the super-affirmative procedure, and it will be possible to introduce amendments. There is also a possibility that the DE Act could be included in the forthcoming Freedom Act, which will repeal unpopular and outdated laws. The DE Act is currently getting the highest votes on the government's own websitewhich is seeking feedback from citizens.
It's also understood that there are plans to revisit the DE Act in the House of Lords. Earlier this month, at a Westminster e-Forum, Lord Lucas said that he wanted to review the defence possibilities for citizens accused under the DE Act.
The discussion itself ranged over some well-trodden ground concerning musicians ability to earn, and some specific issues of the Digital Economy Act. The public sector lobbyists voiced loud concerns for libraries, museums and other public spaces in respect of the liability for open wifi which the DE Act places on them. They argued that it will be impossible for them to continue with open wifi services once the DE Act becomes operational. Ofcom, the regulator, which is responsible for the implementation, was accused of doing nothing to address this issue.
The critical concerns of the citizens' groups were set out by the Open Rights group. Unsurprisingly they had a long list of concerns including private surveillance, evidential standards, interference with privacy, costs to the subscriber, website blocking and the requirement for matters of copyright infringement to be resolved in court.
The All Party Parliamentary Group on the Digital Economy has been set up by Eric Joyce MP to work on issues related to the Digital Economy Act. The vice chair of the group is Julian Huppert, who was instrumental in reversing the Lib Dems policy on the DE Act, and succeeded in getting Nick Clegg to take a position opposing it.
The meeting was held in the Grand Committee Room, which entered via Westminster Hall, the oldest part of the Parliament building dating back to the eleventh century. Sitting on the wooden chairs arranged in a classic horse-shoe shape, one had a sense of the timelessness of the copyright battles. The rights-holder theatricals were entertaining. They looked down, they looked up, they looked concerned, all they needed was a frock coat and powdered wig and they could have played the part of their eighteenth century predecessors, who waged some equally bitter battles against the ‘pirates' of the day.
This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial-Share Alike 2.5 UK:England and Wales License. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/ 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 (2009) DE Act: could the UK Parliament revisit it? http://www.iptegrity.com 28 July 2010 .