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Imbeciles: update

So, on Friday I got together with $LOCAL_FILM_DIRECTOR and we went round to visit our MP, Mark Lazarowicz, at his constituency surgery, and talk about the Digital Economy Bill. My particular angle was clauses 42 and 43 (perhaps better known as the "how to fuck every literary agency and publisher's rights department in the UK" clauses), but of course we covered other areas of interest too — the problems any attempts at bringing in "three strikes" anti-file sharing penalties will cause for the legitimate distribution of free material, the bizarre bid to arrogate control over the entire domain name system to the Secretary of State, and so on. The DEB is a target-rich environment; it was a quiet evening so we had twenty minutes with our MP, but even so barely scratched the surface.

The utility of lobbying your legislator in person ... well, he was interested to hear of our concerns, suggested people we should be talking to, channels to go through, and expressed a willingness to act as a conduit. But at the mere hint that he might like to take it up as an area of interest himself, his body language became telling: leaning back in his chair, with arms tightly crossed, you'd think we'd notified him of the presence of a vampire in the church hall next door and offered him a stake and a mallet. (Given the identity of the bill's sponsor — Baron Mandelson of Mordor — this reaction is not surprising, albeit somewhat disappointing.)

As has been noted elsewhere, the DEB may well be drafted with ACTA-compliance in mind, ACTA being the international trade agreement that our governments are negotiating in secret (from the public, if not from the large media organizations with whom they have signed nondisclosure agreements). If this is typical of the legislative regime ACTA will bring about around the world, ACTA looks like being very bad news indeed.

Anyway, more grassroots organizing from Edinburgh North and Leith is likely to happen over the next couple of weeks. I'll try to keep you posted.

12 Comments

1:

Yeah, time to start pushing hard. His record indicates that he'll rebel against his party on issues that have major popular support, but otherwise not. If you can drum up a significant local campaign, that should get his attention.

I would suggest finding his opponent and talking to them next.

2:

What is the Labour's angle in taking this up now? They're on the way out anyway. Are they trying to please the entertainment industry to get cushy jobs after they get rejected?

3:

Well it's a theory.

4:

niczar: Labour is not a monolith -- it's a political party. Despite being much more tightly whipped than an American political party it is, nevertheless, representative of a coalition of interests.

My take on the DEB is that the Department for Trade and Industry (or whatever it's called these days), prop. P. Mandelson, is subject to regulatory capture by the industries it deals with -- in this case, the big media conglomerates (e.g. NewsCorp). There's a three-pronged strategy under way by big media, to defend their turf: (a) sue the pants off individual file sharers (for propaganda milage -- these days nobody can be unaware that if you copy Hollywood movies there's a chance the movies' owners will come after you with a pointy stick), (b) to lobby for a new international trade treaty (ACTA) that will build a legislative protective wall around their rent-seeking business models, and (c) to pass national-level legislation to enforce the treaty requirements.

New Labour are just doing business as usual. 80% of our domestic legislation originates in EU directives or international treaties anyway; this is just more of the same, with an added dollop of ugly. Even if we derail the worst of DEB, and then a different party gets their hands on the levers of power, we're going to have to fight the same fight all over again.

5:

Sounds like a good start. You're probably in for a decade or two worth of work, but everyone will appreciate it.

6:

Mandelson's personal friendship with Geffen has nowt to do with it either, naturally...

Charlie, you've said in the past you vote Lib Dem, and looking at your constituency I see why--are you actually a member? I'm working with some other for potential policy motions on this and related issues at spring conference--it's much closer to your expertise than mine, would you be interested in being involved and/or giving a draft motion a once-over?

7:

By co-incidence I happen to share the same MP as Charlie. I've recently been pestering him about the DEB and was pleasantly surprised to receive a written response (even if it was a stock reply). However, I can't shake the gloomy feeling I have that this is already a done deal and there's nothing we can do to stop it. I'm just hoping enough jungle drums are beaten so at least the MPs know the natives are restless.

8:

I felt so strongly about this (despite not being an author, a content distributor etc). that I am now a paid up member of the Open Rights Group. http://www.openrightsgroup.org/

Perhaps they can act as a central lobbying point, that's certainly my hope

9:

I suspect you have something in common with the Adam Smith Institute - http://adamsmith.org/blog/media-and-culture/leave-%27digital-britain%27-alone-200912054542/

This may (or may not) come as a shock, but does I think illustrate the scale of the mess of this bill.

10:

FrancisT: I suspect you have something in common with the Adam Smith Institute

/me: * Brain asplodes *

11:

As a resident of one of your former Colonies, I think it's messed up you have an honest-to-God evil Baron as your adversary.

At least you know you're the good guy.

12:

I would suggest finding his opponent and talking to them next.

Indeed, based upon the profile that Mr. Suffield linked,

"Voted very strongly for introducing ID cards.
Voted very strongly for Labour's anti-terrorism laws.
Voted strongly against the Iraq war.
Voted very strongly against an investigation into the Iraq war.
Voted moderately against laws to stop climate change."

Lazarowicz is probably a waste of time. His body language probably wasn't "I'm too afraid of Baron Mandelkonnen"; but rather "I'm a standard-issue New Labour weasel, so I don't actually oppose this perfect combination of Big Business sexual service with rabid authoritarianism."

(His only meaningful break was over the Iraq War, and he managed to more than cancel that out by opposing any investigation into Tony's menadacity.)

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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on December 6, 2009 12:55 PM.

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