Digital Economy Act debate fails to go ahead due to lack of time

Hopefully the debate will happen soon enough, and here's what the Lib Dems are proposing
Kerry Butters

October 12, 2011

Following the failure of the debate regarding the Digital Economy Act (DEA) to go ahead yesterday due to lack of time, we thought it might useful to look at what exactly the Lib Dems have in mind for the Act.

Following the vote by the Lib Dems to repeal parts of the DEA, the party published a paper last month entitled: “Preparing the ground: Stimulating Growth in the Digital Economy.

The recommendations contained within the report included that those parts of the DEA which “lack both democratic legitimacy and practical value” should be repealed.

The proposals also include the right of the public to have free access to the BBC archives and defending the principals of net neutrality.

Of course, the paper also suggests that copyright laws should be overhauled and intellectual property should presume in favour of “rights reverting to the original artist.”

It also suggests that there should be reformation of libel law to allow sites to host the content of others and “reassure internet intermediaries who do not store content that they are not liable.”

The latter caveat is especially interesting to sites such as The Pirate Bay (TPB) who have recently been subject to an order forcing ISPs to DNS block the site to their customers.

The owners of TPB have always insisted that, as they don’t store any material on their servers, they cannot be held liable for what files are shared across P2P networks.

The paper also points out that “constant advances in technological innovation make this an area in need of urgent revision”.

It is argued that many politicians continue to view the internet as nothing more than “a fun accessory”, and fail to see that it has become a vital infrastructure both in terms of government and future commerce.

This, the Lib Dems believe, is further illustrated with the introduction of “backward facing legislation such as the Digital Economy Act, supporting obsolete standards and business models that cannot capitalise on the future opportunities that the internet creates.”

This creates an overly authoritative approach that threatens to stifle innovation, which politicians pose as a “technical” problem rather than the political one that it is.

Whilst the paper concedes that copying music is something that has always been carried out, it also accepts that this has become much more widespread in the internet age.

The solution to piracy, as they see it, is through education and not the aggressive tendencies that have thus far been demonstrated by government and industry officials.

Whilst they don’t disagree that sometimes sites will have to be taken down, the Lib Dems say that this should be done so that legitimate material is never removed.

They also point out that penalties for the closing down of a site without good cause should be put in place, as well as creative innovation being rewarded.

This leads to a number of options available to government, according to the Lib Dems – option A would be to repeal sections 3-18 of the Act, which relates to copyright infringement.

Option B recommends that sections 17-18 be repealed and no action is taken on sections 9-16 until it can be demonstrated that the actions contained within them can be proved to be necessary.

They further propose that an independent review of file sharing regarding the creative industries should be carried out.

This is because the evidence provided on both sides of the debate thus far seems to have been insufficient for either side to gain a deep understanding of the relationship between file sharing and the industry.

Indeed, the paper points out there have been some studies that suggest file sharing might actually increase sales and be beneficial to the industry.

Hopefully, Parliament will find time for this debate at some stage in the near future, as it seems many people would now agree that the time is right for a complete overhaul of the law as it stands.


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