UK Tories want 10-year prison sentences for watching TV the wrong way

Back in 2010, on the last day of the last Labour government, a whipped Parliament voted in the terrible Digital Economy Act, after a short, embarrassingly illiterate debate whose howlers demonstrated just how little the MPs understood about the law they were voting in (the whole process was later revealed to be a fix from day one).

The Libdems pledged to repeal the Act, but threw that promise away with all their other progressive promises when they formed a coalition with the Tories in 2010. Instead, the taxpayers were stuck with a £500M bill to subsidise the business strategies of the entertainment industry, while blackmailers operated with impunity, raking in cash by threatening their victims with prosecution under the law's provisions.

In the years since, the case for the law has been thoroughly debunked, both by independent academic researchers, more independent scholars, and the UK government's own independent experts.

Now it's time to update the Digital Economy Act, and so naturally, the Conservative Party has drafted a law that takes the worst, least-supportable, most outlandish part of the legislation and quintuples-down on it. While the original DEA carries an absurd maximum two-year prison sentence for infringement (that is, for listening to a song on one website instead of another, or streaming a show that expired off the iPlayer a few days earlier), the new revision provides for ten-year prison sentences for infringement.

I made this a plot element in my dystopian novel Pirate Cinema, but it was a metaphor, not a suggestion.

"The Government believes that a maximum sentence of 10 years allows the courts to apply an appropriate sentence to reflect the scale of the offending," the Government explained previously, adding that the maximum sentence will only be applied in rare cases.