I am still at a loss as to what the recording industry think they've gotten with the Digital Economy Bill which passed the Commons late last night. MPs have been throwing around industry figures in the hundreds of millions of pounds lost due to piracy. They seem to be willfully ignoring the argument that one download does not equal one lost sale (and may indeed lead to multiple extra purchases).
The reasons for this are complex. One argument is that most file sharing is done by young people who, being young, don't have the money or the facilities (debit/cards cards) to spend on overpriced CDs and legal downloads. Another argument is that a try-before-you-buy attitude is becoming a normal way of thinking about media consumption. Studies have shown that filesharers, far from being so-called "freetards", tend to buy much more music than the rest of the population. So, instead of hundreds of millions, what the recording industry has got is an easier way to prosecute it's customers. Prosecuting your customers? Say, SCO how well is that working for you? From a personal perspective, I like to support the artists and get my grubby little hands on a physical item and artwork and lyrics book etc. but find it much easier to download and try-before-I-buy.
In return for giving the recording industry the amazing ability to alienate and screw over their own customers, what did we the public get? Well, we got... screwed.
On the other hand, the government... oh boy did the goverment get some good stuff:
- ISPs as an unwilling, conscripted, policing force <cynic-mode>which will in no way ever be subject to feature creep</cynic-mode>
- The ability to block sites which do or may in the future host copyrighted material <cynic-mode>which I'm sure would never be used to target public accountability sites like... oh... I don't know Wikileaks</cynic-mode>
- A further undermining of parliamentary tradition and purpose in the ramming through of a controversial bill at the last minute
- The ability to define how these powers will work with very little paraliamentary accountabiity
- The death of anonymous, free, public internet access
So, firstly, to those MPs who spoke and voted against this Bill, I cannot thank you enough (particularly, @tom_watson, John Grogan, @DrEvanHarris, Austin Mitchell, John Hemming, @lfeatherstone). You may not have understood all the tech, you may have not completely grasped our arguments, you may, ultimately, have failed but you tried. You were there for us. You stood up and were counted. You didn't outsource your thinking and opinions to the party machine.
Only 36.5% of MPs actually voted at all. To put that in comparison, 61.3% of us voted in the last general election and we're still complaining about apathy. You did a part of your job by coming in and taking part in the democratic process. Next time maybe you can take part in the debate and make your own mind up rather than worshipping the holy Labour party - by and large, it was whipped Labour MPs who voted - there's a good breakdown of party attendance at People's Republic. I would also like to see an answer to the crucial question: "We all acknowledge that piracy is wrong and needs tackling, but why does it need to be tackled this way with just a threat of a big stick, why no carrott - the record industry does not need this Bill as a matter of urgency so why did you let it through as one? There is no great urgency for something, anything to be done so why pretend there is and rush through this disaster? What is the positive thing about this solution?"
To the 63.5% who didn't do anything*: You have let us down. Utterly. You have shown us that parliament is corrupt, undemocratic, uncaring and out of touch. You do not deserve to be in re-elected. I look forward to seeing your scrawny arses flying out the door.
(* I will withhold my scorn for those MPs who had genuine reasons for not attending)
Those following on Twitter may know that i have written to my MP on this twice. I have had one response which was "let me ask the minister what I think and I'll get back to you", the second, sent by email on the day of the third reading has had no reply. She is not listed on the vote either for or against. I can only assume she doesn't know what to think yet because the party couldn't find her. She is not seeking re-election - @NickBent is standing in her place (He hasn't yet commented on the Digital Economy Bill). However, my constituancy has changed and the incumbent is a Labour Whip who is re-standing. She voted for the Bill. For this amongst many many other reasons, she will not be getting my vote.