Letter to my MP about the Digital Economy Bill

Letter to my MP, Douglas Carswell, regarding his reply on the Digital Economy Bill.

Dear Mr. Carswell,

Thank you for your letter dated 8th April 2010 regarding my comments on the Digital Economy Bill. I appreciate your concern regarding this bill but I feel you haven’t quite understood the depths to which is legislation will affect all users of the Internet, and how it will damage the Internet and music industry.

I am pleased to hear that your party seeked to remove some clauses of the bill, especially those regarding disconnection; however all the clauses of the bill need further scrunity. The few hours given to the bill do not give sufficient attention to the legislation it brings in.

However, due to the huge number of measures it contains, most, if not all have major impacts of which I don’t believe you are aware of the ramifications.

The Bill was passed, washed up, and rushed through, only a few nights ago. Over 10,000 people wrote to their MPs; and many lawyers tried to attract public attention to the danger of such regulation for our democracy.

Some of the many questions that arise are as follows:

  • What can users do to comply with the regulation?
  • What are users permitted to do? Can we listen to Spotify ? Can we look at YouTube? What can we ‘upload’ onto YouTube? Can I post my children’s musical play on Facebook? Can I offer you an iPod with music downloaded from iTunes?
  • How can we secure our home networks? Will the government provide us with secure wireless devices? How can we lock our IP addresses to be sure no one would download infringing material using them on our behalf?
  • What should we reply when we receive a solicitor’s letter threatening us of legal action? Should we pay the £500 or,
  • Do we have any means of proving we did not download any infringing material?
  • As a self-employed person who sets up Wireless Access points, will I be held responsible for unsecured access points?
  • Will companys who provide Wireless Access Points to customers, such as Linksys and Netgear be held responsible if they have exploits in their software? If a user with an exploitable Internet connection be held responsible, even if they cannot prove who infringed copyright?
  • Will businesses be included? If an employee infringes copyright, will the employers’ internet connection be restricted or disconnected? Many companies would be unable to prove who commited the offense.
  • If a user in unable to provide evidence to the contrary of copyright infringement (since most, if not all users do not log their access; since it is a technical nightmare); is their guilt presumed? What if there is a mistake? Will users receive compensation?
  • Do we know who will intercept our private communications and how personal data will be stored?
  • How the Deep Packet Inspection or filtering will operate to catch potential infringers? In other words, how the internet censorship will be organised?
  • Will this law ever reach its goal, will the heavy downloader using VPN and encryption be caught on the net?

This law is hugely impractical, and brings up questions from what dangers it could present for our privacy, to how against the European Convention of Human Rights is it?

Would it not be more prudent to spend money to encourage internet access and increase alternative distribution methods and reduce the digital divide, rather than now where the money will be spent on disconnecting access and discouraging public Wifi and public internet access.

Furthermore, the following questions arise as an overview and continuing problem of the actions of the Digital Economy Bill:

  • Should we, or should we not, monitor net communications?
  • Does the party believe in Net Neutrality?
  • Since website access is to be controlled, the Government will be using a filtered firewall similar to that used in China. What guarantees can you make that this will not result in actions such as those which have occured in China?
  • Will websites be blocked based on legality, or based upon controlling thought?
  • Since Internet Service Providers will be required to check all packets going through their system, why isn’t Royal Mail expected to do the same?
  • What will happen to businesses’ websites who are blocked? My own website was incorrectly blocked by BT’s Cleanfeed system, and I lost a lot of custom. Can you guarantee this won’t happen again? If it does, will I receive compensation?
  • If customers are disconnected from their ISP, and they can “sign up to another ISP immediately without penalty”; will they have to pay off the rest of their contract?
  • Since users who download music illegally are 10 times more likely to purchase, is this law even sensible?

The problems of copyright infringement are well known. There are a few recent examples I would like to bring to your attention.
Adam Liversage (Director of Communications for the BPI – the British Phonography Industry, who support the bill), recently posted this onto his Twitter page:

BPI Twitter Copyright Infringment

Apparently this was a “joke” but I think it identifies quite how easy it is to infringe copyright.

Also, Labour and Conservatives have fallen foul of this already:

Gene Hunt poster copyright infringment


Gene Hunt poster copyright infringment

Both of these infringe the BBC’s copyright. Even the BBC has stated that these were used without permission – but they would not be persuing action.

Ironically, by posting these three images to you, I have also just infringed copyright, despite that these would have been considered fair use, or parody in the past.

I could have my Internet disconnected simply for viewing these three images, and for sharing them could be fined up to £50,000. If you were to photocopy this for your own reference, you could be fined the same amount.

If the Post Office were treated in this way, they could be fined £250,000 simply for allowing this to be delivered to you.

There are many hundreds more questions that arise from this legislation; not least of all the way it was implemented, how Peter Mandelson was visiting the Rothchilds Family and David Geffen days before it’s announcment – and how few MPs voted on the issue.

Also, since you seem to feel particually strongly on the issue – can I ask why you chose not to vote either way? Most of the MPs voting on this were Labour, it’s a massive surprise to see the Conservatives agree with Labour on this policy, especially with a bill so controvertial, especially so close to an election.

It’s also interesting that this bill was never mentioned on national news, apart from in The Guardian.

I’ll refrain from asking all these questions since I would not wish to overwhelm you when you have other important work to do; however, I feel these are urgently important questions, that if not left resolved could cause massive uprise and affect the courts.

I look forward to your response to put my fears at ease.

With my best regards,

Dug Stokes