I'm a massive fan of Charlie Stross and, while I've been wanting to write about the insanity that is the Digital Economy Bill, I think that he has hit the nail on the head.
I'm reproducing his whole article because I believe that it is important to get this message out there, and I hope he doesn't mind that I want to make sure that people read his article and aren't put off by having to follow a link.
I also humbly suggest that you go and read his blog. Then head over to the Open Rights Group and see how you can help. Even if it is just phoning your MP to let them know that punishment without trial is terribly un-British.
I was trying to think of something coherent to say about the Digital Economy Bill published this week, but I'm too damned angry right now.
I'm a self-employed media professional working in the entertainment industry, who earns his living by creating intellectual property and licensing it to publishers. You might think I'd be one of the beneficiaries of this proposed law: but you'd be dead wrong. This is going to cripple the long tail of the creative sector — it plays entirely to the interests of large corporate media organizations and shits on the plate of us ordinary working artists.
Want to write a casual game for the iPhone and sell it for 99 pence? Good luck with that — first you'll have to cough up £50,000 to get it certified as child-friendly by the BBFC. (It's not clear whether this applies to Open Source games projects, but I'm not optimistic that it doesn't.)
Want to publish a piece of shareware over BitTorrent? You're fucked, mate: all it takes is a malicious accusation and your ISP (who are required to snitch on p2p users on pain of heavy fines) will be ordered to cut off the internet connection to you and everyone else in your household. (A really draconian punishment in an age where it's increasingly normal to conduct business correspondence via email and to manage bank accounts and gas or electricity bills or tax returns via the web.) Oh, you don't get the right to confront your accuser in court, either: this is merely an administrative process, no lawyers involved. It's unlikely that p2p access will survive this bill in any form — even for innocent purposes (distributing Linux .iso images, for example).
I've had problems in the past with idiots at Elsevier issuing DMCA takedown notices against legitimately-posted copies of Accelerando, on the basis of a web search conducted by spider. If this bill goes through, it's going to make it difficult for me to distribute fiction for free (encouraging readers to try my work); I don't want to see folks having their connectivity axed just because a filename they downloaded matches something with an ISBN in Amazon's database.
This bill isn't about securing our creative industries. It's about fucking the little guys, depriving them of channels to reach their public, and about protecting the cartel of big media organizations who are threatened by the development of the public internet. And it stinks from the head down.
I don't like to do incandescent anger (I have blood pressure issues). So I don't usually focus on issues like this on my blog (you want me to live long enough to finish the current book before I stroke out, right?). So I'm going to hand you over to Cory Doctorow, who has the goods, and to the Open Rights Group, who need your support.
That's all for now.
UPDATE: There's a petition on the Number 10 Downing Street website, “to abolish the proposed law that will see alleged illegal filesharers disconnected from their broadband connections, without a fair trial”. If you live in the UK, I strongly urge you to sign it. While these petitions are in no way binding, large sign-ups send a warning sign to the government and have, in the past, provoked a re-think on controversial legislation. And this is especially likely in the run-up to a general election (which must be held within the next six months).