Last year, the UK government held consultation into its proposed Digital Economy Act, an extremist copyright proposal created by the unelected Business Secretary Peter Mandelson. The process that followed was as dirty as any I'd ever seen (for example, the then-head of the BPI wrote an amendment proposing a national censorship regime that a LibDem Lord then introduced on his behalf. But it turns out that there was much more sleaze below the surface.
Documents released in response Freedom of Information requests show that Mandelson had already made up his mind from the start about the Act's most controversial section: the rules that said that users would have their Internet connections terminated if enough unsubstantiated infringement claims were made against their households. The "compromise" that the Act made was to suspend this measure initially, and bring it into force if the other measures in the Act failed to substantially reduce infringement. Critics called it the sham it was, saying that a 70 percent reduction in file-sharing was a delusional target, and the FOI documents show that the Act's supporters agreed — they only intended the compromise as a means of smuggling in France-style disconnections.
Which is to say that the whole business was a sham: the Business Secretary and his pals in the record industry had stitched the whole thing up from the start, and the thousands upon thousands of Britons who wrote in never had a hope of changing things. That's why the Act was crammed through Parliament without debate in the "wash-up," hours before Labour dissolved the government.
One consultation respondent told TorrentFreak: "As someone who went to considerable effort to submit a rational and evidence-based response to the consultation on these issues, I am disappointed, although not surprised, to see that the outcome was predetermined." The UK Pirate Party is a little more scathing.
"These documents show how outrageously complicit everyone from the entertainment industry, politicians and unions were in framing the Digital Economy Act," PPUK Chair Loz Kaye told TorrentFreak.
"Its most controversial aspect – suspending people from the Internet – was already sorted out in July 2009. It appears that the consultation was just for show, and the lobbyists got all they asked for. There are now serious questions to be asked of successive governments' relations to groups like Universal Music and the BPI."