Don’t let the Government rush draconian internet laws through Parliament before the election: write to your MP! I did.

(Others in this series.)

Dear Meg Hillier,

Thank you for your thoughtful response of 17 December regarding the Digital Economy Bill. I appreciate your taking my concerns on board, and indicating that you shared some of them.

I’m writing today to ask you to demand a full Commons debate on this highly controversial Bill, and not to support Government plans to rush it into law before the election.

In our previous correspondence, I told you about my concerns about the measures in the Bill to tackle illegal file-sharing: that besides their intended effect of incentivising creation, these measures would

  1. stifle the UK’s digital businesses (including my own software consulting business, and the businesses of my clients) by creating a restrictive and uncertain legal environment;

  2. damage British social justice, by exacting disproportionate penalties on a potentially huge number of citizens (and voters), without a required standard of evidence or right to redress for false accusation (points with which you indicated you shared my concern), and without a court trial or presumption of innocence; and

  3. harm British democracy, by building in “reserve powers” for unelected officials to change copyright law without Parliamentary scrutiny, and by allowing massive and largely evidence-free lobbying from special interest groups to unduly influence the legislation.

Especially in light of point 3 above, I have been extremely concerned to read in the press that the Government is likely to force the Bill into law before the upcoming election. It is disturbing that the Government would deny MPs the chance to fully consider the implications. It is downright scary that crucial details of the most controversial proposals might be worked out behind closed doors in the “wash-up”.

As a constituent, I am writing to you today to ask you to do all you can to ensure the Government doesn’t just rush the bill through and deny us our democratic right to scrutiny and debate.

There is no evidence that the need is so pressing as to justify passing bad laws. The content industry lobbyists asking for this hasty lawmaking claim that they urgently need the measures in the Bill to keep their industry alive. This is an extraordinary claim in light of recent news that, in the midst of a recession, online music revenues grew by 73%! The sky is clearly not falling.

The concerns raised by myself and many others are still largely unaddressed, despite the large number of amendments proposed during the debate in the Lords (itself evidence of the importance and contentious nature of this Bill). The proposed legislation will still fail to support authors of copyrighted works, and it will still do great harm to Britain’s digital economy.

I apologise for extending this already long letter, but I would like to close by quoting from a post written today on the LabourList blog:

The bill which is supposed to provide the structure for Britain’s digital future, is currently being opposed by the internet service provders who are central to that future – not because they are worried about their profits, but because they don’t want to police their customers in this way, especially not on the basis of an assumption that has not been proved. Consumers are worried that this clause could have serious effects on their lives. Consumers vote.

Is this clause so important that it is necessary to push it through at any cost? Is it really wise to have this bill become an easily recalled symbol of Labour’s record on civil liberties, and a ‘sidestepping’ of democratic process? This close to this election?

Once again, please demand a full democratic debate on the Digital Economy Bill.

Yours sincerely,

Sam Stokes