Monday, December 7, 2009

UK Alert: Stop the Pirate-Finder General!

Lord Peter Mandelson, the UK's First Secretary of State, has introduced a bill to grant himself (and future politicians) the power to re-write Britain's core copyright legislation with almost no Parliamentary debate, using fast-track secondary legislation. If you're in Britain, call your MP now, and tell him or her that no Secretary of State should be able to rewrite copyright law on a whim!

In the UK, the Labour administration's impatience to pass its "Digital Economy" agenda risks throwing balanced, deliberate reform of copyright law utterly out of the window. With no warning or consultation, the draft Digital Economy bill now includes a provision granting the Secretary of State — currently Lord Peter Mandelson — the power to make statutory instruments that can re-write Britain's Copyright, Design and Patents Act with almost no Parliamentary debate.

Once the Digital Economy Bill is passed by Parliament, the Secretary of State could use sweeping powers to effect wide-ranging changes to the copyright system to swiftly meet the needs of one set of interest holders:

The Secretary of State may by order amend Part 1 [of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act] or this Part for the purpose of preventing or reducing the infringement of copyright by means of the internet, if it appears to the Secretary of State appropriate to do so having regard to technological developments that have occurred or are likely to occur.

This would allow those who lobby for more draconian copyright enforcement the ability to bypass the normal democratic process, and grant them an effective veto on new Internet technologies that concerns them.

The only way to stop constant ratcheting up of punishments and restrictions on innovation is to ensure that such broad powers are never granted. Call your MP now, and tell him or her that no Secretary of State should be able to rewrite copyright law on a whim.

Suggested message to your MP

All MPs can be contacted via the House of Commons switchboard at:
+44 (0)20 7219 3000

"I'm calling to state my opposition to Lord Mandelson's proposals to change our copyright law to benefit a few industries, and his attempts to make wide-ranging changes through secondary legislation. Please make it clear to the government that in its current form, its Digital Economy bill and any related statutory instruments affecting copyright law will damage the digital economy, not build it." (Add your own comments.)

After your call, let the UK's Open Rights Group know what your MP said here.

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