6 April 2010

Andrew Dubber writes...

The Digital Economy Bill could be the worst thing to happen to UK culture since the Criminal Justice Bill. Honestly? I think it could actually be a lot worse. I'm talking about this over on echatio, and with varioous folks online, but for a good, solid, reasonable approach, here's Andrew Dubber's latest letter to his MP, Stephen McCabe:

Dear Mr McCabe,

No doubt you’ve been contacted many times about the Digital Economy Bill. This is my third letter to you, and I am still awaiting a response.

I am Reader in Music Industries Innovation at Birmingham City University, and I deal extensively with musicians, music entrepreneurs and music businesses in general – as well as music archivists, music workers in many different industries (for example, music therapy and music education) and music technologists.

There are so many compelling reasons that this bill will be bad for consumers, bad for business, bad for music as an art form, and bad for music as part of our culture and heritage – let alone the flaws in the bill’s understanding of the technology.

It is clear to me and to the vast majority of the people I work with on a day-to-day basis that the bill only stands to benefit multi-national corporations and not British citizens, music workers, creative industries or the knowledge economy. In fact, the Digital Economy Bill is far more likely to be detrimental to those same multi-national corporations and lobbying interests like the BPI, despite what they may think, but their urgency to get this bill passed without debate is fuelled by the same misconceptions and protectionist, anti-consumer behaviour that has been the hallmark of the last 15 years of the entertainment industry.

In short – it is bad legislation. It is harmful to free speech, impedes access to education, knowledge and culture, aims to artificially prop up businesses that simply refuse to adapt to contemporary shifts in the media environment and prioritises music as commerce over music as culture – the very opposite of what copyright is intended to propagate.

I am writing now that Harriet Harman MP has announced that the Bill is definitely going to receive a second reading on Tuesday April 6, widely expected to be the day an election is called.

On Thursday, Harriet Harman gave no assurance that controversial parts of the Bill would not be rushed through in 90 minutes, despite concerns being raised by members from both sides of the House.

Please do not underestimate the strength of feeling on this issue. Over 17,000 letters have been sent to MPs in the last week – yet the Government still seems intent on forcing the bill through Parliament without allowing a real debate about the issues.

People like me, who are concerned about this issue, will be looking to see who has done everything they can to make sure this Bill is not crashed through on the last day before an election.

I am a long-time Labour supporter*. This is a deal-breaker for me and for many like me. I wish to be perfectly clear about this: my continued support and my vote in the upcoming election rests entirely upon this issue. Are you the sort of politician that stands up for its constituents, for culture and for democracy, or are you the sort of politician that will hurry through a bill without scrutiny at the behest of powerful and monied corporate lobbyists?

I would very much appreciate it if you could do everything you can to raise this issue with ministers and party managers to make sure that these provisions receive proper debate and scrutiny in a new Parliament.

I look forward to your prompt and reassuring response.

Andrew Dubber

There's more about this on Dubber's own site, including his other letters and some of his own ideas about teh internet and music.

There's also some good stuff on 38 Degrees and about a million other places. I might start adding links in the comments section, so feel free to do the same. I also recommend taking the time to write to someone, anyone, about this. Your MP, the paper, the BBC, radio stations; anyone with an email address. If the idea of writing letters to folks is a bit daunting, click on the 38 Degrees link, where you will find resources and tools to help you (it's way easier than you think).

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