Last night saw the third reading of the Digital Economy Bill. Once beyond this stage, bills reach reach Royal Assent stage and become law. With a majority of 189 to 47, the Digital Economy Bill passed.
This is a Bill - soon to be a law - that has been touted as supporting the creative digital industries, supporting the kind of consumer category that we as gamers and internet-savvy techno-types fall squarely into. Yet we find exactly no voices sounding out their support for this legislation. Scan Twitter, check Facebook, look at any internet hub, and you'll find a swarm of angry citizens, against the backwards and protectionist policies this law will usher in.
The most worrying is the 'three strikes' rule, whereby IP addresses determined to have infringed copyright repeatedly can be barred from internet access indefinitely. The explicit aim of this law is to encourage and facilitate the linking of digital advances into Britain's future: to surgically cut off sections of the population - for life - from the internet is counter-productive to the point of mania. That's not even to mention the inexact science those wielding the banhammer will be using. On my street alone, I find five unlocked wireless connections. It's a simple job for me, at home, to attach myself to a wireless access point, download a wodge of copyrighted content, and gleefully watch/play it myself, while the poor spod without the innate net-knowledge to lock his router has to deal with the legal ramifications of my actions.
This is just one of the Bill's contentious statements, hidden away in the text. Dig further, in the Guardian's useful sub-page for the Bill, or on Techradar, and you'll be incensed for days at the actual content of the Bill.
More worrying though, is the machinations of lawmaking that the Bill's process through Parliament hints at. The House of Commons was a sorry sight during the Bill's various readings, the only dots against the sickly green of the House's benches being a few conscientious politicians (stand up, Tom Watson, and take a bow). The heated discussions that took place in the House were between those up to speed on the issues of the bill (you too, Don Foster) and those painfully ill-informed - Stephen Timms took the stand to defend the Bill, spouting some dangerously incorrect statistics and arguments.
This is democracy at its worst. The overwhelming vocal is a howl of anguish at the Digital Economy Bill's passing. Drawing a line between ISPs and content providers like Sky cosying up to Peter Mandelson, and the passing of this Bill is depressingly easy; worse still when most of our elected representatives, the people paid to speak for us in Parliament, spend all possible debating time on legislation vital to our country's future sat outside the House, ignorant to the issues.
20,000 people wrote to their MPs to ask them to reconsider this alarming and dangerous Bill. 20,000 people were ignored. When it came to putting this Bill into law, our country's finest spent two measly hours discussing its passage. Let's let the final word on the issue go to Don Foster, MP for Bath and vocal critic of the Bill:
"Spending over one hour debating one clause of a 50 clause bill with one hour for all the rest... it's frankly disgraceful".