New reports claim that the UK Secretary of State, Peter Mandelson, is planning to make a shocking addition to the Digital Economy Bill. The new power would grant him the ability to set "secondary legislation" (i.e. legislation passed without debate) to amend the provisions of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act (1988).
The BoingBoing article alleges that Mandelson has offered three reasons for doing this, which could include the power to make new remedies for online infringements without debate. Democracy? No thanks we're British.
1. The Secretary of State would get the power to create new remedies for online infringements (for example, he could create jail terms for file-sharing, or create a "three-strikes" plan that costs entire families their internet access if any member stands accused of infringement).
2. The Secretary of State would get the power to create procedures to "confer rights" for the purposes of protecting rightsholders from online infringement. (for example, record labels and movie studios can be given investigative and enforcement powers that allow them to compel ISPs, libraries, companies and schools to turn over personal information about Internet users, and to order those companies to disconnect users, remove websites, block URLs, etc).
3. The Secretary of State would get the power to "impose such duties, powers or functions on any person as may be specified in connection with facilitating online infringement" (for example, ISPs could be forced to spy on their users, or to have copyright lawyers examine every piece of user-generated content before it goes live; also, copyright "militias" can be formed with the power to police copyright on the web).
We find some of this hard to believe as it clearly goes too far and we hope the vast majority of parliament would be in opposition to it. This would attack something far more fundamental than merely piracy, our democracy. Outspoken Labour MP Tom Watson has already pledged not to support the above changes. The initial Digital Economy Bill will officially surface today.
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