Posts Tagged ‘Digital Economy Act’

Julian Huppert’s “One-Speed Internet”

Friday, August 19th, 2011

Lib Dems are appealing to the vital online pirate vote at this year’s party conference, putting the membership on collision course with LibDem ministers in the coalition government. In a new IT policy paper called “Preparing The Ground”, a team of party activists led by Cambridge MP Julian Huppert calls for the Digital Economy Act to be gutted of its copyright measures. It also threatens new legislation to ensure all “traffic flows at the same speed”, and wants the IR35 contractor tax suspended.

Senior party figures speaking on condition of anonymity expressed dismay at the proposals. The LibDems are in government for the first time in 70 years, and have attempted to leave behind the Party’s old “sandal-wearing” image as a haven for single-issue-fanatics.
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Web politics: The honeymoon is over

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

Parallel moves in Canada and the US may signal the end of the honeymoon for web-based political campaigning – or change it beyond recognition.

Politicians are becoming increasingly familiar with sudden squalls of email filling up their inboxes, and policy makers with responses to public consultations arriving via a web intermediary. But not surprisingly many of these can be phoney, inflating the true size of what purports to be "grassroots" campaign.

The shortcomings of the web-based approach were illustrated here recently. Photographers on a shoestring budget successfully mobilised against Clause 43 – but internet campaigners concerned about file-sharing who used a site to send 20,000 emails about the Digital Economy Act failed to make an impression, resulting in a triumph for the BPI.

Earlier this month Obama’s internet guru, Harvard academic Cass Sunstein, warned departments that internet opinion shouldn’t be used as an opinion poll or focus group. He advised that:

Agencies exercise good judgment and caution when using rankings, ratings, or tagging. Specifically, agency use of the information generated by these tools should be limited to organizing, ranking, and sorting comments. Because, in general, the results of online rankings, ratings, and tagging (e.g., number of votes or top rank) are not statistically generalizable, they should not be used as the basis for policy or planning.

That’s pretty conclusive. Four years ago, Sunstein published a love letter to Web 2.0 called Infotopia: How Many Minds Produce Knowledge that praised Wikipedia, blogs and prediction markets. But this is an altogether more sober assessment. He seems to have had second thoughts.

A vivid illustration of how a few single-issue fanatics can skew the results of an opinion poll is currently being digested in Canada. Lawyer Richard Owens has investigated the responses and found something quite interesting.

In response to a copyright form paper, over 8,000 responses were submitted, but 65 per cent of these were an identical form email from one IP address, the "Canadian Coalition for Electronic Rights". Owens notes that these:

…Included Submissions in which: no names were used; only first names were used (there were, for example, sixty-eight “Chris” and seventy-two “John” who made Submissions); and, suspect names, such as – “D Man”, “El Qwazo”, “pr0f1t”, “Cereal”, and “Eagle” – were used. Given the ability to submit anonymously or under false identification, is highly probable that there are multiple Submissions from the same persons.

 

The CCER form letter had been circulated around Bittorrent P2P fan sites. But most of the visitors to these sites aren’t Canadian. Quantity overruled quality.

Observers wondered whether something similar might have happened in the UK. When the Open Rights Group ventured into the real world, the numbers were small: it mustered just over 100 bodies for its main demo, and only single figures for its "flash mobs". The ORG’s "Your Message To Mandelson" campaign launched last year rapidly gathered 300 anonymous messages – but stalled at around the 500 mark.

Such disparities led people to question how representative the online activity really was. "Is this a particularly well-focussed campaign by a relatively small group of activists?", asked the BBC’s Rory Cellan Jones.

Read more at The Register

How the photographers won, while digital rights failed

Monday, April 19th, 2010

How did the music business end up with a triumph with the new Digital Economy Act? How did photographers, whose resources were one laptop and some old fashioned persuasion, carry an unlikely and famous victory? How did the digital rights campaigners fail so badly?

Back in January, a senior music business figure explained to me that Clause 17, which gave open-ended powers to the Secretary of State, was unlikely to survive the wash-up. But he didn’t much care; the other sections which compelled the ISPs to take action against infringers were good enough. Anything else was a bonus – possibly even a distraction. Yet to the amazement of the music business, web blocking is now legislation.

I think this is a watershed in internet campaigning. It’s not just a tactical defeat, it’s a full-on charge of the light brigade…

Read more at The Register

BBC investigates Richard Madeley’s PC panic attack

Monday, April 12th, 2010

Richard Madeley told the nation how the Government was going to whisk away his computer last week. The BBC has promised to investigate.

The segment on Monday’s Simon Mayo drive time heard Madeley, who is filling in for Mayo, say:

“What a pain! I only got computer literate three years ago, just as I get wised up to it, they take it away.”

We don’t yet know how many car accidents were caused by the news of mass confiscations.

Madeley was following a segment of the show about the Digital Economy Bill (now Act). The sole ‘expert’ was Professor Lilian Edwards. Edwards was simply billed as “a Professor of Law” at Sheffield University.
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TalkTalk, ORG see cash from Mandybill chaos

Friday, April 9th, 2010


Never let the facts, or taste, get in the way of a marketing campaign, we say.

TalkTalk boldly promised today to fight disconnection requests in court, at least until after the election. Carphone Warehouse strategy director Andrew Heaney made the pledge on his blog.

The fact that ISPs don’t get any disconnection requests, and if they did, they would (rightly) throw them in the bin along with other junk mail, isn’t mentioned. Such a request would currently have the legal validity of a request to paint your house pink, scribbled on a fag packet and thrown from a passing car.

Heaney’s pledge is only good until “after the Election”. If account suspensions are eventually approved, it won’t be for a long time.

Maybe Heaney thinks we’re all extremely stupid. Or maybe he’s just found his audience.

“I’m impressed. Well done,” comments Stef Lewandowski, a marketing guru who has advised quango Nesta and the Department of Culture Media and Sport, and is a Cultural Leadership Fellow at the Arts Council-sponsored Clore programme, studying “Accelerated Serendipity“.

“Seven Years of Donations Fighting, Brothers…”

Meanwhile Open Rights Group’s Maximum Leader, Comrade Jim Killock, was crowing about the success of the appeals drive, launched to capitalise on the ORG’s spectacular success (are you sure? – Ed) with the Digital Economy Bill.

The ORG’s entire front page was replaced with a “Fuck You” graphic, soliciting donations. This prompted dismay from supporters, according to emails that fell into our inbox.

“Someone – please – say that the ORG server has been hacked by some script kiddies,” wrote one supporter. “Oh, for heavens sake are we in the school playground? Who are we trying to attract?” asked another. “Yes, we lost a round – there’s no reason to become petulant and offensive.”

Killock eventually obliged, but then noticed something:

“Hum guys, since we took the graphic down, nobody’s joined up (from 16.50 till now) – that’s cost us about £2000* assuming they’re not joining because we’re not pushing them as strongly”

So he put it back up again.

Comrade Jim explained that five people an hour were joining while the front page had displayed the middle finger – which indicates what an impressive mass movement the music industry is up against. That’s almost enough for an ORG Flash Mob. The average pledge was £60, which Jim multiplied over seven years.

(Obviously he expects the ‘copyfight’ to go on… and on… and on.)

“I’m very understanding of the issues people have raised, but a strong reaction – one that will offend some people while making other people agree violently – is required to make people part with their cash.”

That’s the spirit, Jim.

A user’s timetable to the Digital Economy Act

Friday, April 9th, 2010

Now that the Digital Economy Act has been passed by both Houses, what can internet users expect, and when? Quick answer: nothing much soon.
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Digital Economy: a Sketch from the Commons

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

Live TV and internet coverage allowed the nation to feel grubby as the Mandybill was shunted through the House of Commons late last night. The government’s replacement for Clause 18 – a catch-all illiberal web-blocking measure that few in the music business ever expected to survive – was approved, and the photographers cemented a spectacular victory by crushing the orphan works clause.

But not before a bit of spirited resistance – or token posturing – take your pick, for it in truth it was a bit of both, to the copyright infringement clauses by Tom Watson, Austin Mitchell, Bill Cash and other backbenchers.
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Kumbaya is not a legal defence

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

Maybe photographers have a guardian angel, after all. The Stop 43 campaign to throw out the orphan works clause may be the only part of the vast Digital Economy Bill where activists have achieved their goal – rather than made things worse. With the Tories pledging to drop the clause, it’s unlikely to survive the wash-up – although we won’t know for sure until very late tonight.

Eleventh-hour validation for the photographers came thanks to Labour’s obsession with Web 2.0 gimmickry, which delivered them a gift last Friday.

Labour launched a Photoshopped poster of David Cameron as Gene Hunt, which the Guardian soberly reminded us, showed “a recognition that the best ideas do not always belong to ad executives in London”.

Two Milliband brothers were on hand, looking extraordinarily pleased with themselves. Just one problem: they didn’t ask for anyone’s permission. Image rights for Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes belong to the BBC. Cameron’s mugshot is also under copyright.

The problem with Freetards is that they don’t just miss the point, they close their eyes and run as fast as they can past it, screaming.

“It demonstrated every point we had been making,” a Stop43 campaigner told us today.

It’s not the first time Labour has used images to which they have no rights. And to demonstrate that they’re 100 per cent fail-compatible with Labour, the Webtastic Tories followed suit.

It didn’t go unnoticed by MPs.

Yesterday Peter Luff (Con.) pointed out it was a “spectacular demonstration” of Stop43’s points.

Tom Watson MP, currently with Labour but also the First Minister of Freetardia, disagreed. He arose to gave the boilerplate Web2.0rhea perspective:

“That message was mixed by Labour spin doctors, then remixed by Conservative spin doctors. He is proving the point that mixing culture and the power of sharing are new in the internet age”

“That is precisely why the Bill is so incompetent. We are not going to stop people sharing content with each other and using it creatively to create new things. He should be proud that young people are mixing up these images to engage in political debate.”

Maybe.

But the problem with Freetards, even Freetard MPs – is that they don’t just miss the point, they close their eyes and run as fast as they can past it, screaming.

It was left to Luff to apply the lethal injection:

“Ah, that is a very interesting point,” he said. Luff pointed out that a quick search showed how easy it was to find the BBC original and contact the photographer. There was even a telephone number. He continued:

“We should not forget that the BBC, as this blog says, is one of the main proponents of a Bill to allow use of other people’s images in ways they did not envisage without permission or payment, yet it is furious that without permission or payment someone has taken a BBC image and used it in a way that the BBC did not envisage.”

Moral rights, or droit d’auteur, isn’t mentioned very often in Professor Lawrence Lessig’s books. That’s undoubtedly why Watson hasn’t heard of it.

Digital Economy marathon reaches Wash Up

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010


The Mandybill looks set to become law, with its teeth and gold fillings intact.

Conservatives have vowed to oppose three controversial clauses of the Digital Economy Bill in the next 48 hours of legislative horse trading, but will keep the online file sharing portions intact. Photographers have been more persuasive than the anti-copyright lobby: Clause 43, involving collective licensing and orphan works, is one of the three that Tory culture secretary Jeremy Hunt has said must go.

The others are Clause 1 and Clause 29, both of which involve adding expanding the role of uber-quango Ofcom.

Hunt slammed the Bill, calling it “a digital disappointment of colossal proportions”. He said the government had ducked the issues of the digital radio switchover and the provision of local news, and failed to clarify the role of the BBC or strengthen independent TV production. The Tories said they may review these issues if the Mandybill becomes law. The piracy measures, while not perfect, reflected the Commons consensus that something needed to be done to deter online copyright infringement and protect jobs.

To the surprise of the music business, it means that the illiberal Section 18, giving Courts powers to block access to sites that exist largely to deliver infringing material, will survive. The section, previously Section 17, was introduced in response to industry concerns about cyberlockers such as Rapidshare.
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Open Rights Group musters Flash Mob… of 7

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

Sorry ORG

Music House — HQ for a number of the UK music industry’s trade groups — was in a lock-down situation this lunchtime as an Open Rights Group Flash Mob descended, protesting against the Digital Economy Bill.

As many as seven protesters could be seen outside the Berners Street offices, according to staff who phoned us from beneath their desks. This is slightly down on the nine who had pledged their support on Facebook.

Twitter was a hive of activity, too. We’d counted two Tweets on the protest in an hour. Photographic evidence below suggests that after an hour, the number had swelled to almost double figures.

In a simultaneous gesture, over at the BPI’s HQ, three protesters handed in a “disconnection notice” to chief executive Geoff Taylor, who apparently wasn’t in.

Music House, the focus of the main protest, is home to the PRS For Music performing rights society, the Music Publishers Association, the Musicians Union, the Music Managers Forum, the British Academy of Composers Songwriters and Authors, and umbrella trade group UK Music.

The ORG’s FlashMob was trailed as a “Stop Disconnection April Fools Flashmob” with the question “Are we being made fools of?”

But with a turnout of less than a dozen, that’s a question that answers itself, really.
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