Debating the Digital Economy Bill

Lord Norton

Yesterday’s Second Reading debate on the Digital Economy Bill produced some good speeches: the most telling critiques of the Bill were provided by Lord Lucas on the Conservative benches and Lord Whitty on the Labour benches.  The debate is well worth reading.  The first speaker on the Conservative side was former Cabinet minister, Lord Fowler, and I thought readers may enjoy his opening comments:

Lord Fowler:  My Lords, I am responding first from this side but I should perhaps make it clear that the views I set out are mine alone and, probably to its relief-do not bind my party in any way. This is also not a bid to move from here to the Front Bench. I know this will come as an enormous disappointment to your Lordships, but I have already made more political comebacks than the noble Lord, Lord Mandelson.

Lord Mandelson: Impossible!

Lord Fowler: That is about right; on reflection, he has made rather more.

In any event, I was rather put in my place at the State Opening. The cameras roamed over those of us waiting and, I am told, for a moment or two dwelt on me, which noble Lords might think was rather good-and it might have been had the BBC commentator not chosen to add the remark:

“Ah, there’s a face from the past”.

So my first complaint about the Bill is that it does nothing to curb the excessive salaries paid to BBC commentators.”

15 comments for “Debating the Digital Economy Bill

  1. Gareth Howell
    03/12/2009 at 11:41 am

    Any comment I may have made about senility and the second chamber tends not to apply to those who have plenty of experience of the repartée of the other place, and on the front benches of it. Even then it is not a guarantee of any real wit.

    As a school boy I do recall people “trying to be witty” and failing. I’ve always found both
    the Lords Mandelson and Fowler… trying and not witty.

    The wit refered to by L Norton does sound quite amusing, and surely not unrehearsed by either of them!

  2. Carl Holbrough
    03/12/2009 at 1:06 pm

    My Lord, I watched a couple of hours of the debate and it was telling. The lack of technical knowledge from even silver surfers was frightening.

    Whilst I understood the concerns for the £Industries£ involved there was a complete lack of knowledge on the tech side and of the impact on our young.

    Baroness Murphy is constantly stating that we have to reside within a limited budget. We have not got the budget to provide good Policing of the internet, passing the costs to a third party who hasn`t the will, the finances or the judgemental skills is criminal in itself.

    The ability to stop or at least make difficult copyright infringement already is with those who are complaining. I can install software that stops social networking, limits online time and stops the visiting to download sites where infringement maybe taking place. My Lords the industry refuses to make this software default for new machines, it has nothing to do with costs. The industry is manipulating Government to be seen as the “bad guy” whilst they are good.

    • 05/12/2009 at 6:56 am

      Is the software available for Linux and Mac OSX?

      What if I wish to purchase a machine without software installed on it which would cripple what I intend to use it for? Bittorrent is hardly only used for illegal things, you know. Software distribution is increasingly offering torrent sources, and rightly so since it reduces the need for massive centralised servers and pipes.

      I don’t know many consumers who ever went to a manufacturer and said “you know what I want your products to do? Less. And can you make sure I can only do the things you leave in with greater difficulty.”

      Of course, Microsoft have nonetheless taken this imaginary consumer’s advice to heart, which is quite often why their OSs are so intolerable to use.

      Full disclosure: I haven’t yet tried W7 and hear it hardly crashes at all. Nonetheless, if it’s like Vista or XP, I’m sure that a parent can cripple the bejesus out of it without too much difficulty by fiddling with the “parental control” settings.

  3. Bedd Gelert
    03/12/2009 at 5:05 pm

    Nothing wrong with a bit of experience, Lord N.

    I listened to some of this debate last night on ‘Today in Parliament’.

    Always dangerous to comment on something one doesn’t have the full facts about, but it does sound as though rather draconian penalties are in the pipeline which could be a sledgehammer to crack a few filesharing nuts.

    Much talk about ‘shoplifting’ will reassure the industry, but do little to win hearts and change minds, I feel. Ad hoc changes to the law on copyright and intellectual property may sound sensible with the belt and braces of having to be passed in ‘both houses’.

    Reading between the lines, is this not the old, old story that legislators have been captured by the industry and that we are a few short steps away from having a regulated un-free internet which may cause more problems than it solves.

    Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft and countless of other hi-tech companies work in the relative light-touch regulation of the US. Not that this is an unalloyed delight – there could be another ‘banking regulation’ disaster in the pipeline, and Google Street View is an example of when companies play fast and loose with the public and the executive.

    But I do think we need to ‘look before we leap’ here – if Mandelson thinks it is a ‘good thing’, that in itself is a reason to look very, very close at the fine print in case it just legislates for greater control for ‘The Corporation’ at the expense of the public.

  4. Gareth Howell
    04/12/2009 at 10:49 am

    One of the most difficult problems of public presentation for politicians is becoming a caricature, whilst actually going about the business of politics. Some people say “Ah! there is a lookalike!” whereas it is the real MacCoy.

    All of the Thatcher/Major govt personalities became caricatures by 1997, and I fear that many think the same of the present lot.

    The TV has a lot to answer for since you see the face of the individual much larger than you ever would in daily life in your living room, so you see the warts ‘n all.

    Then when you meet the individual in question it can be rather tricky not “ogling” his/her
    physiognomy more closely than normal, just to make sure it is who you think it is.

    I have various methods of not getting eye bulge, when I do meet princes and potentates, but the best method of all, is a pair of specs. Then everybody just thinks you have got bad eye sight, including the person inspected too closely!

    L. Norman Fowler? A face from the past.
    L. Mandelson? Answers on a post card, best answer may nominate a charity to which I will donate 1 Euro.

  5. Gareth Howell
    04/12/2009 at 10:51 am

    Oh! And if you get eye bulge from 100 people all at the same time, then you know you are really, really famous, or a duplicating Blogger on Lords of the Blog. laughter.

  6. Senex
    06/12/2009 at 2:36 pm

    For complex issues the art of writing an act of Parliament is to deal with issues at a high level and avoid detail. This bill is an example of how back office support to bill construction in the Commons is woefully lacking because it mentions contentious technical detail.

    However, in this case I believe it to be quite deliberate in that the outcry will shape the regulation that must eventually underpin the Act.

    So bloggers comments here must be very welcome by the government. If bloggers feel a little duped by this then they must at least respect the artful use of politics. Don’t flee the blog though, stay with it as the blog is a changer of long held cherished views and an education in Parliamentary practice and procedure necessary for all of us to effect change.

    The mention of IP addresses should be moved to regulation and therefore struck from the bill. Customers are then in breach of regulation and whether they have broken the law or not is a matter for a magistrate’s court if the miscreant is formally charged. My view on regulation is that they are by and large a complete waste of time because people ignore them and they only serve to placate vested interests politically.

    As for hiding IP addresses, governments all over the world employ the use of such surreptitious behaviour because privacy is often vital to national interests. Can you imagine Royals surfing in plain sight? Can you imagine the Prime Minister or the US President doing the same?

    Can you imagine Gary McKinnon failing to hide his IP address whilst snooping up the skirts of a five sided lady wearing no knickers?

    Can you imagine children proliferating weapons grade know-how only to protect their parents from their illicit downloading and its retribution? If you can, then it is the stuff of nightmares.

  7. pip
    08/01/2010 at 9:59 am

    i notice that the Digital Economy Bill Committee (1st Day)has taken place and yet nothing has been mentioned here as regards its vast impications for the consumers rights etc and thats a shame…

    can you collect up your thoughts and reasoning as regards thais and perhaps have a read of the facts as seen by ordinary people regarding Deep Packet Interception , the EU directives and privacy etc….

    and post your blog thoughts here ASAP and ask your questions to clarify tech and other things on NoDPI in near realtime.

  8. pip
    08/01/2010 at 10:04 am

    opps forgot the URL for interested readers

    the they work for you hanserd is also the better place to read as they allow you a direct ability to Add an annotation.

  9. pip
    19/01/2010 at 12:06 pm

    we are already into the 3rd day of the Digital Economy Bill [HL] and still NOT ONE lord here has Bothered to comment on its content,shame on You.

    • lordnorton
      19/01/2010 at 8:04 pm

      We are also in Committee on the Equality Bill and the Child Poverty Bill, as well as on Report stage of the Bribery Bill, Northern Ireland Assembly Members Bill, and the Cluster Munitions(Prohibitions) Bill. There may be more to report shortly on the Digital Economy Bill, but the more important stage will be Report stage.

  10. pip
    19/01/2010 at 12:35 pm
    “Thursday, 10 December 2009
    Government wants new powers to block wikileaks and squeeze web tv

    Just over a week ago I wrote a fairly dry legal analysis of the Digital Economy Bill. I spotted an extremely serious provision — clause 11 — in the version being discussed in the House of Lords. Having looked at the amendments (which you can find on the Bill’s document page) I am worried that no-one in Parliament appears to be taking the problem seriously.

    What is the problem with clause 11 that I am getting so alarmed about it? It amends the Communications Act 2003 to insert a new section 124H which would, if passed, give sweeping powers to the Secretary of State. It begins:

  11. pip
    02/02/2010 at 2:17 am

    care of Richard Lamont on the http://www.chiark.greenend site
    Issue Date: 24/06/1957…

    Bill Symon talking to Mr Marcus Lipton MP. CU. Mr Lipton – natural sound, with voice off stage saying
    “Do you regard this as a fundamental attack?” Mr Lipton replies: “Oh yes, I regard this whole episode as most sinister an odious.

    It is the first time in living memory that anyone has had their conversations intercepted in this way, where the National security was not involved and then to add an insult to injury the information handed over to an outside body. It is absolutely monstrous.”

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