November 20, 2009 | Jim Killock

Digital Economy Bill: dangerous and draconian just got dictatorial

Finally, the Digital Economy Bill is released, first through an online music industry website, and then several hours late, on their official website.

The Bill starts with a declaration by Mandelson that the Bill is in his view compliant with the European Convention on Human Rights.

In other words, despite appeals from ourselves and Consumer focus, no legal audit has been made. Instead, we are expected to accept Lord Mandelson’s word for it.

We also believe that the legislation is not compatible with the new EU Telecoms Package, which seems to guarantee a prior legal process and the right to be heard.

Disconnection proposals are still in the Bill, and still do not require a test of evidence. There are references to weak ‘appeals’ mechanisms.

And worse still, new powers are presented in the now notorious Section 17 for Mandelson to create new measures to combat online infringement by diktat, using so-called ‘Henry VIII powers’ to amend legislation without proper parliamentary scrutiny.

Mandelson would be able to:

(a) confer a power or right or impose a duty on any person;

(b) modify or remove a power, right or duty of any person;

(c) require a person to pay fees.

It is this power which has been criticized by Cory Doctorow among others for providing extensive and arbitrary enforcement measures, including the ability to create a ‘Pirate Finder General’.

Parliament would rubber stamp such orders, of course, but Statutory Instruments are meant to be for non-controversial administration, not conferral of duties that are likely to cause conflict and potential economic harm. 

A great many people have emailed or phoned their MP today. And another flood of new supporters have joined today, which will help ORG fight these proposals even harder.

There is a massive swell of action against this Bill, led by creators, citizens and people working in digital industries, who are outraged by this attempt to hijack our rights.

Our rights are at stake. We are right to be angry, and determined to fight.