openDemocracyUK

Shocking new threat to web freedom

The UK government wants to give itself dangerous new powers to protect copyright
Guy Aitchison
20 November 2009

Peter Mandelson is planning to introduce changes to the Digital Economy Bill now in Parliament to give the Secretary of State power to amend copyright law by statutory instrument, effectively allowing he and his successors to do anything, without parliamentary approval or debate, provided it is done in the name of protecting copyright. 

Cory Doctorow of BoingBoing has the details:

What that means is that an unelected official would have the power to do anything without Parliamentary oversight or debate, provided it was done in the name of protecting copyright. Mandelson elaborates on this, giving three reasons for his proposal:

1. The Secretary of State would get the power to create new remedies for online infringements (for example, he could create jail terms for file-sharing, or create a "three-strikes" plan that costs entire families their internet access if any member stands accused of infringement)

2. The Secretary of State would get the power to create procedures to "confer rights" for the purposes of protecting rightsholders from online infringement. (for example, record labels and movie studios can be given investigative and enforcement powers that allow them to compel ISPs, libraries, companies and schools to turn over personal information about Internet users, and to order those companies to disconnect users, remove websites, block URLs, etc)

3. The Secretary of State would get the power to "impose such duties, powers or functions on any person as may be specified in connection with facilitating online infringement" (for example, ISPs could be forced to spy on their users, or to have copyright lawyers examine every piece of user-generated content before it goes live; also, copyright "militias" can be formed with the power to police copyright on the web)

Read the full article.

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