Friday, November 20, 2009

Fascist Digital Economy

So I watched this week with appalled fascination as Britain's government brought in its Digital Economy Bill, another giant leap forward in the Labour Party's ever-evolving "soft fascism." (And which will probably become law just in time for the Tories to step into office. What joy.)

As a blinkered and baffled American, I can't hope to equal the level of anger and vitriol flooding across the Atlantic from Britain, but I can sure as hell quote it. This from Charlie Stross:

Want to write a casual game for the iPhone and sell it for 99 pence? Good luck with that — first you'll have to cough up £50,000 to get it certified as child-friendly by the BBFC. (It's not clear whether this applies to Open Source games projects, but I'm not optimistic that it doesn't.)

Want to publish a piece of shareware over BitTorrent? You're fucked, mate: all it takes is a malicious accusation and your ISP (who are required to snitch on p2p users on pain of heavy fines) will be ordered to cut off the internet connection to you and everyone else in your household. (A really draconian punishment in an age where it's increasingly normal to conduct business correspondence via email and to manage bank accounts and gas or electricity bills or tax returns via the web.) Oh, you don't get the right to confront your accuser in court, either: this is merely an administrative process, no lawyers involved. It's unlikely that p2p access will survive this bill in any form — even for innocent purposes (distributing Linux .iso images, for example).

And even more from Cory Doctorow:

The British government has brought down its long-awaited Digital Economy Bill, and it's perfectly useless and terrible. It consists almost entirely of penalties for people who do things that upset the entertainment industry (including the "three-strikes" rule that allows your entire family to be cut off from the net if anyone who lives in your house is accused of copyright infringement, without proof or evidence or trial), as well as a plan to beat the hell out of the video-game industry with a new, even dumber rating system (why is it acceptable for the government to declare that some forms of artwork have to be mandatorily labelled as to their suitability for kids? And why is it only some media? Why not paintings? Why not novels? Why not modern dance or ballet or opera?).

So it's bad. £50,000 fines if someone in your house is accused of filesharing. A duty on ISPs to spy on all their customers in case they find something that would help the record or film industry sue them (ISPs who refuse to cooperate can be fined £250,000).

But that's just for starters. The real meat is in the story we broke yesterday: Peter Mandelson, the unelected Business Secretary, would have to power to make up as many new penalties and enforcement systems as he likes. And he says he's planning to appoint private militias financed by rightsholder groups who will have the power to kick you off the internet, spy on your use of the network, demand the removal of files or the blocking of websites, and Mandelson will have the power to invent any penalty, including jail time, for any transgression he deems you are guilty of. And of course, Mandelson's successor in the next government would also have this power.

What isn't in there? Anything about stimulating the actual digital economy . . .

If I were a Brit, I'd email my MP. While I still had the right.

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1 Comments:

Blogger Ralf the Dog said...

Would it be possible for concerned citizens to turn in certain members of parliament and the British equivalent of the RIAA/MPAA? Why do I think the rules would not be applied equally? I guess some animals are more equal than others.

9:49 PM  

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