Reply (finally) from Meg Hillier MP on the Digital Economy Bill

After 2 emails to Meg on this issue alone, finally I get a group response. Please see below for the vague, non-committal, generic email.

Thank you for contacting me about the digital economy bill. Please accept my apologies for the group response. I have had a great number of e-mails about this bill.

I agree with you that the bill should have time to be properly debated in the House and I have raised my concerns about the timing of the progress of this bill.

When Parliament is prorogued (i.e suspended before the election) all remaining bills are put into what is commonly called the wash up. This is a process which requires both major parties to agree which bills they pass into law. Early signs are that the digital economy bill may be agreed between Government and opposition.

A number of people have also written to me specifically about the copyright of ‘orphan works’. I am concerned about how this part of the bill will affect photographers (professional and amateur) and I have spoken to the minister personally about this.

I have been reassured somewhat that even if the bill is passed next week, the measures effecting photographers need not be enacted in regulations (legislation after a bill becomes law to enforce certain parts of it) if photographers do not want it. This means that even if it’s passed, we can work to stop the proposal being enacted and I would take this up after May 7th if returned to Parliament.

Thank you for taking the time to write to me about this issue. I will keep you updated with any developments.

Yours sincerely

Meg Hillier MP

****** New: I replied today – see below:*******

Good afternoon Meg,

Thank you for your reply.

It is good to know that you are concerned with the timing of the progress of this bill. I appreciate you voicing your concerns and speaking to the minister personally about the issue of orphan works. I am glad to see that, after the second reading, clause 43 of this bill has been dropped, that was something that would further distort the balance of intellectual property in favour of those with deeper pockets.

Something I am still concerned about, however, is the amendment to clause 8. In particular, the wording: “…is likely to be used for or in connection with an activity that infringes copyright”. One angle of the problem is obvious – the wording ‘is likely to be used’ could include sites like wikileaks, as argued by John Hemming at th second reading, or even sites which have *not yet* committed copyright infringement. (I’m sure I don’t have to quote article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, or even use the phrase ‘innocent until proven guilty’.)

The other side of the coin is the growing number of free anonymity software available. I’ll leave you to research these in your own time, but these essentially mask IP addresses in different ways and are widely available and will have the effect of send illegal downloading underground. (This is an important factor as to why any monitoring of Internet activities is not only a breach of human rights, but a pointless and very expensive waste of resources).

As you said yourself, many people are upset by this, and also feel very strongly about it (please see WWW.TWOMONTHSNOMUSIC.BLOGSPOT.COM for more details, this is a blog written by Patrick (twitter handle @patrickolszo) that I found through reading other people’s views on twitter. He is a music fanatic has decided to boycott music for 2 months as a personal protest to the digital economy bill.)

In light of your comments and assurances that you were worried too, I’d like you to explain to me why you did not attend the second reading of this bill, please? You said in your email that many people had contacted you about this bill; you said yourself that you were concerned and worried by the timing and the fact that you were not able to debate it in Parliament and so this leaves me with a sense of confusion as to why you were not present.

I should remind you that you work for us. You are our elected representative and I question your ‘sincerity’ that you did not turn up to a reading of a bill you know provokes strong reactions in the constituency. This is fast becoming an election issue for many, especially of the younger generation, and so I welcome your explanation.

Yours sincerely,