The unelected Sith Lord Mandelson, who appears to have collared vast acres of political power in the UK via his all-encompassing ministry has his Digital Economy reports Ars Technica: UK “Pirate Finder General” law innocuous now, could get ugly.  This bill seems to fit the needs of big media rather than any form of human rights and justice.  Ars Technica reports:

The bill implements the Digital Britain report, which was completed earlier this year and attempted to chart a course forward for Britain in a high-tech world. It initially imposes two obligations on ISPs: they must forward warning letters from copyright holders to their subscribers, and they must maintain an anonymized list of the number of such warnings received by each subscriber. If a copyright holder asks, they must be shown the list, at which point the rightsholder can go to court and seek to uncover the names of the top offenders, and then sue them. There are no sanctions, but such sanctions could be coming. The government has written “reserve powers” into the law that can be deployed at a later date without needing Parliamentary approval.

It’s these “reserve powers” that raise question marks – “The Secretary of State may by order amend Part 1 or this Part for the purpose of preventing or reducing the infringement of copyright by means of the Internet, if it appears to the Secretary of State appropriate to do so having regard to technological developments that have occurred or are likely to occur.”  This is a bit of a worrying development. Whenever the Secretary of State thinks you’re behaving badly, he can order your disconnection or other actions against your internet connection.  Sith Lord Mandelson has always shown a great affinity with the rich and powerful – lately he’s been hanging round the media mogul David Geffen – is it too cynical to suggest that there’s a connection?

The Open Rights Group reckon there aren’t enough safeguards in the bill – “The Bill doesn’t require any test of evidence before harsh punishments are imposed on people accused of copyright infringement, and opens the door to a ratcheting up of unwarranted powers without democratic scrutiny.”, while the EFF complains that the bill effectively changes the balance of power in copyright matters, with Mandelson (or his successors) able to rewrite legislation via fast-track procedures lacking full parliamentary provision. And of course, the bill could be used to compel ISPs to monitor traffic, record transactions, filter content etc.

Presumably the passage of the Digital Economy Bill through Parliament is by no means assured: there will be a General Election during 2010.  But I doubt the likely successor to the present Government will be any less authoritarian.

 

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