Digital companies object strenuously to UK Digital Economy bill

Facebook, Google, Yahoo and eBay have written a letter to Britain's Pirate-Finder General, Peter Mandelson, objecting to his proposal to introduce the Digital Economy Bill with provisions that allow him to make up any copyright law and penalty he likes. He's responded saying, "Don't worry, no one would ever abuse that power, ever, ever. Why would they?"
"The law must keep pace with technology, so that the Government can act if new ways of seriously infringing copyright develop in the future," a spokesperson for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Bis).

The consortium believe that if Clause 17, as it is known, is approved it will give "any future Secretary of State" the ability to amend copyright laws as they see fit.

"This power could be used, for example, to introduce additional technical measures or increase monitoring of user data even where no illegal practice has taken place," the letter read.

This would "discourage innovation" and "impose unnecessary costs" representatives of the firms wrote.

Bis said that clause 17 was a necessary extension of its plans to reduce copyright theft and that fears that government would mould copyright laws to their needs were unfounded.

Web giants unite against Digital Britain copyright plan (Thanks, Graham!)


  1. Laws should state not only what IS allowed, but what is NOT, as specifically as possible. It doesn’t matter what the original intent behind a law is, if the law can be abused it will be. If Mandelson’s intentions truly are good, which I doubt, then he is a fool for proposing such a thing. I do not think he would have risen to his current position by being naive, therefore his actions are simply sinister.

  2. Cory,

    What do the British ISPs think of all this? Are we to take from the lack of data that they say nothing? It is interesting that they don’t care about lost revenue. (from mandatory cutoff customers or digital filtering administration)

    Incidentally, as a Canadian currently on TekSavvy, but formerly on (Cogeco) cable, I wonder how the current Mandy-God position in Britain compares to the Canadian CRTC and court structure. The CRTC has been (quietly) backing Bell and Rogers, but won’t quite endorse their worst practices. Have you been following the ISOHUNT case at all? There’s a lot of shady stuff going on here, but not quite the over-the-top ‘Corfu bribed automaton’ behaviour.

    How does this tangent relate? Simple, the TekSavvy guys speak up at government inquiries, talk to the media, and generally protect both their business and their consumers’ rights. They even put up with my broke ass mailing them cheques! They were the ones to first break the story of Bell pre-throttling their wholesalers.

    So other than providing your service, what has your ISP done for you lately?

    1. Most ISPs have expressed their displeasure.
      My ISP (Be) has a link to their opinion on their front page.
      Another ISP – TalkTalk – started a petition against it. It currently has around 30,000 signatures making it, I think, the second biggest in the UK.
      Virgin Media, meanwhile, has started testing Deep Packet Inspection software on a large proportion of their customers – without their permission.

  3. I wonder what point there is in writing to Mandy, since he’s obviously been bought and will just put the letters in the bin. Writing to his boss would have more effect, I’d think.

  4. Let me provide an short excerpt from a film in an attempt to contribute to this new report; I am sure you will find use of this excerpt to be sufficiently transformative.

    Lt. Weinberg – “I strenuously object?” Is that how it works? Hm? “Objection.” “Overruled.” “Oh, no, no, no. No, I STRENUOUSLY object.” “Oh. Well, if you strenuously object then I should take some time to reconsider.”

    The BIS statement is dismissive. A letter (in this case) won’t dissuade the BIS from assuming such gigantic power. On the international stage, copyright and other IP laws, and enforcement thereof, are dictated by government trade representatives. The person or office that wields the power to unilaterally change copyright law also wields the power to make or break major trade agreements.

  5. “Trust us, these powers would never, ever be abused!” – Remember it was my government that used recent anti-terrorist legislation to seize the assets of a failing, bankrupt Iceland.

  6. “with provisions that allow him to make up any copyright law and penalty he likes. He’s responded saying, “Don’t worry, no one would ever abuse that power, ever, ever. Why would they?” ”

    Which means that the government would then be able to introduce knee-jerk reaction legislation. And we know they never pass new ill thought out laws in reaction to over blow media campaigns.

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