Friday, April 9, 2010

Ni Hao Great Britain

A crying shame, it is. This blog is not meant to be political in nature and is (usually) not prone to hyperbolic hand wringing. This post does both, unashamedly. I just could not believe that the Digital Economy Bill was “passed”, or rather rushed through the British House of Commons. Actually what took place was the ‘Third reading”, which is not the same thing as passing. But we won’t get into quaint British parliamentary traditions where worthies have to yell “Hear Hear” when they actually are meaning &^%$ @#$. They effectively passed that bill. See the photo in this article to see how vigorously attended this debate was.

I am not a British national; I do not live in the UK and have no business commenting on British policy or laws. But I am a self confessed Anglophile. I hold great fondness for all that is good and great in Her Majesty’s kingdom. That paragon of virtue, fair play and freedom, passes such a thing as the Digital Economy Bill - that is difficult to stomach.

95% of the bill is all good and fine, even though it will never achieve the objective of making the UK an IT power house. You cannot make an IT powerhouse when one third of the population reads The Sun, one third drinks 75 pints a night at the pub and one third’s religion is called Manchester United !!

It’s the 5% that is horrible. It gives the power to the government to block internet sites. Read that again – block internet sites. They can block sites that “is being, or is likely to be used in connection with an activity that infringes copyright”. Read my lips – Blocking any website, whatever be the reason, is just wrong. If you believe a website is violating copyright, go to a court of law ; prosecute the site owners; that’s the correct process. Not blocking their site.

This bill has all sorts of provisions on copyright. They can get ISPs to disconnect people who are supposed to be violating copyright. The bill seems to have been lobbied for hard by the old world news and music dinosaurs. A certain old man with big interests in the UK media comes to mind, but we shall refrain from going in that direction.

These dinosaurs are just flailing around as the internet is destroying their old cosy models on copyright. Remember how the music dinosaurs forced you to buy an expensive CD full of rubbish just to get at the one good song you liked. Remember how the music labels forget that the world is global and restrict stuff to certain countries. Remember that if they sensibly priced it and offered reasonable terms, a la iTunes, people will pay for them. Remember that declining costs and profitability are a factor to be tackled in all industries and there is no God given right to media that they should be exempt from it. Remember that content creators on line do succeed if they have appropriate business models. But then dinosaurs are not adept at adapting, as we all know.

Instead they go and get a law such as the Digital Economy Bill. I would expect such a bill in the country which the title of post alludes to. Not in the land of hope and glory.