The Digital Economy Bill Could Kill Social Media
It’s been set. It’s May 6th. Why can’t I get enthused about that? Perhaps because, no matter which grinning, media-spun millionaire public school boy or village idiot wins the General Election, it’s the same ocean of excrement they’re going to have to swim in while towing all of us along with them. And just like the remnants of the Wermacht who indulged in the Scorched Earth policy in the face of the advancing Red Army and certain defeat, Peter Mandleson seems to be dead keen on pushing through the Digital Economy Bill which now appears to be eligible for the process by which bills that have run out of proper parliamentary time are hurried through to royal assent.
Ofcom was due to get its responsibilities and powers extended (might not last a Tory government that one) and the analogue radio switch off is on course. The controversial £6 annual levy on fixed phone lines to pay for the majority of UK homes to get access to super-fast broadband by 2017 is also alive and kicking, but equally unlikely to survive a Tory government. Nominet could also lose its responsibility to oversee the use and registration of . uk sites.
But by far the most contentious part of the bill is the clause added to the Communications Act 2003 that says that ISPs must provide "copyright owners" (whoever they are) with details of copyright infringers. Internet service providers will have a duty to spy on their customers at the risk of being fined up to £250,000 if they don’t do so. Not much change there as they are doing that already through Deep Packet Inspection which can facilitate Internet data mining, eavesdropping, and censorship. More on that in future posts!
Internet providers in terms of the bill means anyone who may offer free Wi-Fi services for example, like hotels or small cafes or even Virgin Trains and those same ISPs are also required to block access to sites that allow "substantial" infringement and cut off Internet access to any user who is suspected of copyright infringement without any substantive evidence or trial. That applies to downloading anything at all that may be deemed to be “copyright”. That would kill a lot of Wiki sites and would be less than helpful to many Social Media channels. Would each of the images on Flickr for example be deemed to be the copyright of their respective owners and therefore give people cause to restrict their use and undermine the whole idea of Social Media (and the internet generally) being about free exchange of ideas and information at least?
The record industry is happy with the proposals, of course, especially since Peter Mandleson suggests that this brainwave came to him following a meeting with dis-interested and entirely altruistic billionaire David Geffen on an island owned by the Rothschild’s. If that doesn’t sound like the stage directions from a movie script to set up a gathering of archetypal Bond villains, I don’t know what does! The opposition to the Bill's anti-piracy provisions may rouse MPs to try to get it examined properly in the Commons, but with an election looming and many MPs demob happy and glad to be going because the gravy train has derailed, many will feel it's not worth fighting over. At least French lawmakers in the National Assembly recently defeated a similar bill that would have given authorities the power to disconnect those suspected of downloading music or copyrighted materials “illegally”.
Given the huge vested interests of the music and movie industries in maintaining their current outmoded business and revenue models, even rebellious France seems likely to pass some sort of bill. In an age where British and Western politics is more concerned with being “on message” and therefore controlling the medium (although they don’t seem to realise that you can’t control nor can you ever "control" channels like Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr etc) welcome to China and the attempt to strangle Social Media everyone!