Digital Economy Bill – Greg Hands Responds

A few days ago, I wrote to my MP, Greg Hands, because I’m concerned about the Digital Economy Bill.

This bill may soon be passed into law here in the UK. Both as a professional and a citizen, I find its implications disturbing. It would allow people to be cut off from the internet merely on suspicion of copyright violation. I also doubt its chances of significantly reducing piracy, as it would most likely force people to take their now quite open file-sharing activities underground.

I sent Mr. Hands my email last Wednesday, the 17th. On Friday the 19th, I received his reply by post. I am pleased with what it contains. Mr. Hands writes:

We want to make sure that Britain has the most favourable intellectual framework in the world for innovators, digital content creators and high tech businesses. We recognise the need to tackle digital piracy and make it possible for people to buy and sell digital intellectual property online. However, it is vital that any anti-piracy measures promote new business models rather than holding innovation back. This must not be about propping up existing business models but creating and environment that allows new ones to develop.

The emphasis is mine – and I entirely, emphatically agree. I am not in favour of copyright violation. But the 20th century media publishing business model simply doesn’t apply any more. Widespread piracy is, in part, a response to that from demanding consumers. The onus is on the industry to respond to that demand with innovation and bold business thinking. Instead of doing this, since the 1990s they have stagnated, while leaning on government to preserve their golden goose. This Bill is part of the government’s response – but far from effectively reducing piracy, it will do damage to this country’s digital economy and undermine the principles of openness and fairness that have made the Internet such a resource for citizens and businesses alike.

This is no way to run a progressive digital economy.

I am very happy to read that Mr. Hands shares this view.

In addition, he has said that the “controversial measures” the Bill contains

should be debated in the House of Commons, and only if we are confident that they have been given the scrutiny that they deserve will we support them.

I wish you luck, Mr. Hands. I’ll be looking forward to seeing how this turns out.

I’ve posted the full text of Mr. Hands’ response, and a scan of the letter, after the jump.

Here’s what he said:

Dear Mr. Trippenbach,

Thank  you for contacting me about the Digital Economy Bill.

For nearly twelve years, the Government has neglected this crucial area of our economy. We believe a huge amount needs to be done to give the UK a modern regulatory environment for the digital and creative industries. Whilst we welcome aspects of the Bill, there are other areas of great concern to us.

We want to make sure that Britain has the most favourable intellectual framework in the world for innovators, digital content creators and high tech businesses. We recognise the need to tackle digital piracy and make it possible for people to buy and sell digital intellectual property online. However, it is vital that any anti-piracy measures promote new business models rather than holding innovation back. This must not be about propping up existing business models but creating and environment that allows new ones to develop. That is why we were opposed to the original Clause 17 and are still opposed to Clause 29, which props up ITV regional news with Licence-Fee-payer’s money.

The Government’s failure to introduce the Bill until the eleventh hour of this Parliament has given rise to considerable concern that we no longer have the time to scrutinise many of the controversial measures it contains. We believe they should be debated in the House of Commons, and only if we are confident that they have been given the scrutiny that they deserve will we support them.

My colleagues in the Shadow Culture, Media and Sport and Shadow Business, Innovation and Skills teams will do everything in their power to work towards legislation that strengthens our digital sector and provides the security that our businesses and consumers need.

Once again, thank you for taking the time to write to me.

Yours sincerely,

Greg Hands MP

(I’ve included a scan of the whole letter here.)

2 thoughts on “Digital Economy Bill – Greg Hands Responds

  1. Yes, I am a bit disappointed that he didn’t actually vote. It appears that he didn’t show up for the debate, either. At least he didn’t vote for the bill.

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