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Digital Britain

Britain was traditionally influential in European policy for telecoms policy. It was a British Commissioner, Lord Cockfield, who established the Single European Market. Britain led the way in the establishment of a competitive European telecoms market. However, in leaving the EU, Britain has lost the ability to influence European policy in the future, and in 2022, Britain sadly finds itself no longer a major power, but instead has become an embarrassment for British representatives in international fora. The government is sunk deep in corruption, it blatantly lies, its law-breaking has led to mistrust among former allies. There are multiple posts, articles, and tweets to support this claim.

It's in this context that the British government is preparing a law to address regulation of the Internet. It's a law that will have far-reaching implications for the way the Internet will function in Britain, and will impact on web platforms overseas. I am referring of course, to the Online Safety Bill. As I write this, at the beginning of 2022, the Bill is only in draft form. How will it end up? Interestingly, in going through my old posts, I note that wrote in 2015 about a similarly -named Bill. It was the predecessor to this one. It never became law, but many of the provisions in it appear to have been taken forward into the 2022 version.

A number of the articles in this section discuss a previous policy, called the Digital Economy Act 2010. This was a law that mandated broadband providers to work with the music and film industries, in order to enforce copyright on the Internet. It was forced through in the dying hours of the Parliament before the General Election of May 2010. The measures involved the use of network technology to sanction users, with implications for the neutrality of the network, and the 'mere conduit' status of the network provider. The law was deemed unworkable and never implemented. That is a lesson that needs to be taken on board by all policy-makers in this field.

If you like the articles in this section, you may like my book The Closing of the Net.

If you are interested in the Digital Economy Act and copyright enforcement policy, you may like my previous books A Copyright Masquerade: How Corporate Lobbying Threatens Online Freedoms and The Copyright Enforcement Enigma - Internet Politics and the 'Telecoms Package'

The UK will have hung Parliament following yesterday's election, with neither Labour nor Conservative gaining a majority. But the  election result brings little  comfort for Internet users or the Internet industry. Key political actors in respect of the Digital Economy Bill have been returned. The Liberal Democrats, who opposed the Digital Economy Bill, have not made any gains, and it is unclear what power they may have to influence policy with either of the big two parties. 

The biggest scalp from the Internet perspective is Charles Clarke, former Home Secretary, who drove the Data Retention Directive through the European Parliament. Clarke has lost his seat in the UK Parliament to a Liberal Democrat candidate.

Charles Clarke was Home Secretary in 2005, and in that role he was  the Minister representing the UK Presidency on Justice and Home Affairs matters. Thus, he was  responsible for the Data Retention Directive* which mandates phone and Internet companies to store records of people's phone calls and email transmissions for a period of up to two years. The Directive was criticised for threatening privacy. The Internet industry said it was unimplementable. 

The UK Presidency approach was deemed at the time by MEPs to be overly aggressive and

Read more: UK election: Data retention Minister Charles Clarke voted out

The Conservatives could have blocked the Digital Economy Bill (which is now a  law). But they chose not to, according to David Cameron, because the music and entertainment industries were "more important".  LibDem leader Nick Clegg called the DEBill a ‘stitch-up'. Labour leader and Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, does not even know what it is. What does this say for democracy, as UK citizens go to vote this Thursday?

 

David Cameron, the leader of the UK Conservative party, was filmed for a three-way leadership election debate sponsored by Facebook and YouTube. Mr Cameron says that he could have stopped the Digital Economy Bill, on the grounds that there was no time to debate it. But he did not do so, because "there were important things in the Bill for a really important industry, that is music, 

Read more: David Cameron: music industry is more important than democracy

88 individuals from the music and entertainment industries appear in the 2010 Sunday Times Rich List. An elite half dozen or so are richer than the Queen. Is this who the Digital Economy bill is designed to protect?

 

The Digital Economy Bill is openly intended to protect the interests of those who benefit from rights vested in entertainment and music. It seeks to erect an infrastructure of censorship for their benefit, which will be ultimately paid for by consumers in increased broadband charges. It is therefore interesting to see how many individual rights-holders are in this year's Sunday Times Rich List and who they are. They include many well known singers and actors,  such as Elton John, Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, Bryan Ferry, Kylie Minogue, as well as Daniel Radcliffe (of Harry Potter fame). Their fortunes are more than most people could ever imagine earning,  seven are richer than the Queen,  and quite a few who are not much poorer than she is.    The  full list is pasted below.

From a policy perspective, in a deep recession which we are not yet clear of,  when many  people are being made redundant and young people have no chance of a first job, we have to

Read more: Musicians coining it in Sunday Times Rich List

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About Iptegrity

Iptegrity.com is the website of Dr Monica Horten. I am an  independent policy advisor, with expertise in online safety, technology and human rights. I am a published author, and post-doctoral scholar. I hold a PhD from the University of Westminster, and a DipM from the Chartered Institute of Marketing. I cover the UK and EU. I'm a former tech journalist, and an experienced panelist and Chair. My media credits include the BBC, iNews, Times, Guardian and Politico.

Iptegrity.com is made available free of charge for non-commercial use. Please link back and attribute Dr Monica Horten.  Contact me to use any of my content for commercial purposes.  

The politics of copyright

A Copyright Masquerade - How corporate lobbying threatens online freedoms

'timely and provocative' Entertainment Law Review