Sunday, May 16, 2010

Digital Economy Act: ask your MP to take action

Regular readers will know that one of the really large and most annoying bees in my bonnet at the moment is the awful Digital Economy Act. I've written about it on many occasions for example here, here and here.

This Bill really got up the nose of Labour MP for Falkirk, Eric Joyce to the extent that this ultra loyalist actually for the first time disobeyed his whip and voted against it when it was forced through Parliament in an unholy Labour/Tory stitch up just before the Election.

Good to the promise he made at the time, he's now in the process of setting up an All Party Parliamentary Group and he's asking people to contact their MPs and ask them to get in touch with him at his Parliamentary e-mail to show their support so that he can get a meeting set up as soon as possible after the Queen's Speech on 25th May. He's keen for this group to make an impact quickly and I think we should do all we can to get it off the ground.

I've started to put together a list of new MPs in Scotland with their contact details as they can be most difficult to contact as they won't have their parliamentary or constituency offices set up yet. I think Eric is being a bit optimistic about them even having their parliamentary e-mail. I remember Willie Rennie was elected in February and it wasn't until early April that we had our's. Please feel free to use the comments to add contact details for any new MPs that you're aware of.

Let's hope that this All Party Group is the most short lived ever. Nick Clegg said during the election that the Liberal Democrats would repeal this legislation and put something better in its place, so I suspect The Almighty Vince will be much easier to deal with than his predecessor The Dark Lord.

For MPs who were re-elected, you should be able to find their contact details on They Work For You

New MPs in Scotland:

Mike Crockart, Edinburgh West can be e-mailed on

Pamela Nash, Airdrie and Shotts, is on Twitter.

Cathy Jamieson (Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock) still has her MSP website

Boy, this one hurts. Thomas Docherty, Dunfermline and West Fife.

Margaret Curran, Glasgow East, has her MSP website.

Gemma Doyle, West Dunbartonshire

Sheila Gilmore, Edinburgh East

Tom Greatrex. Rutherglen and Hamilton East

Michael McCann, East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow

Gregg McClymont, Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East

Graeme Morrice, Livingston. I will be holding him to his promise made to me by e-mail at 3.19 am one morning before the election (these people do work darned hard) that he would work with Eric.

Ian Murray Edinburgh South

This is as far as I'm going to get right now as the Monaco GP build up is about to get under way but if you know any more, please add them.

Much later, having been thrilled and scared by an eventful Monaco Grand Prix, seriously annoyed by a stupid stewards' decision and delighted with the dignified and thoughtful way my party backed the coalition deal, I'm back to add to the list.

FionaO'Donnell, East Lothian

Anas Sarwar, Glasgow Central

Eilidh Whiteford, Banff and Buchan - Facebook page

The Lib Dem Special Conference today passed the following amendment relatin to the DE Act:

Conference urges Liberal Democrat ministers and MPs to take all possible steps to ensure the repeal of those sections of the Digital Economy Act 2010 which are inconsistent with policy motion Freedom, Creativity and the Internet as passed at Spring Conference 2010.

For the sake of completeness, here's that motion:

Emergency motion on Freedom, creativity & the internet

Conference welcomes the stand of Liberal Democrat MEPs against web-blocking; specifically that, on 4 March 2010, Liberal Democrat MEPs helped the European Parliament to demand access to the negotiation texts of the secret, international Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) negotiations, which were condemned on 22 February 2010 by the European Data Protection Supervisor for endangering internet users’ fundamental rights.

Conference however notes with concern amendment 120a to the Digital Economy Bill which allows web-blocking for alleged copyright infringement and which was passed on 3 March 2010 with the support of Liberal Democrat and Conservative peers;

Conference reaffirms the Liberal Democrat constitution commitment: “We champion the freedom, dignity and well-being of individuals, we acknowledge and respect their right to freedom of conscience and their right to develop their talents to the full. We aim to disperse power, to foster diversity and to nurture creativity.”

Conference believes that this amendment to the Digital Economy Bill

a) would alter UK copyright law in a way which would permit courts to order the blocking of websites following legal action by rights-holders

b) would be open to widespread anti-competitive and civil liberties abuses, as the experience with similar web-blocking provisions in the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act illustrates

c) could lead to the closure of internet hotspots and open wifi operated by small businesses, local councils, universities, libraries and others

d) could have a chilling effect on the internet, freedom of expression, competition and innovation as Internet Service Providers take down and/or block websites to avoid facing the costs of legal action

e) may be illegal under the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and other EU law

Conference condemns

a) web-blocking and disconnecting internet connections

b) the threat to the freedom, dignity and well-being of individuals and businesses from the monitoring of their internet activity, the potential blocking of their websites and the potential termination of their internet connections.

c) the Digital Economy Bill for focusing on illegal filesharing rather than on nurturing creativity and innovative business models.

Conference supports

a) the principle of net neutrality, through which the freedom of connection with any application to any party is guaranteed, except to address security threats or due to unexpected network congestion.

b) the rights of creators and performers to be rewarded for their work in a way that is fair, proportionate and appropriate to the medium.

Conference therefore opposes excessive regulatory attempts to monitor, control and limit internet access or internet publication, whether at local, national, European or global level.

Conference calls for:

1. All publicly-funded publications to be freely accessible under a Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike licence.

2. Copyright legislation to allow fair use and to release from copyright protection works which are no longer available legally or whose authors cannot be identified.

3. A level playing field between the traditional, copyright-based business model and alternative business models which may rely on personal copying and legal filesharing.

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