Two days ago, a meeting – that has been expected ever since the United Kingdom’s copyright fiasco started to take shape – finally happened. Ed Vaizey MP – the government’s Communications Minister – faced the opponents of the censorship bill that has been put into motion against all websites who are connected to copyright infringement. Until now, the controversial Voluntary Code of Practice between UK’s ISPs and Right Holders has been debated behind closed doors which, of course, was not well regarded by the media nor by the public.
However, on the 21th September 2011, Ed Vaizey held an organized by Dominique Lazinksi of the Tax Payers Alliance session that also featured representatives from the Open Rights Group (ORG), Timico’s Trefor Davies, Pirate Party, COADEC, Open Digital Policy, the Featured Artists Coalition and LINX.
Ideas were exchanged, eyebrows were frowned and everyone had something to say:
Trefor Davies, Chief Technology Officer of Timico UK said :”I think Ed Vaizey found the level of debate far more constructive than he had been expecting. The gist was that people were not supporting unlawful behaviour but concerned that the evidence presented was not open to scrutiny.
We should be pursuing other more conventional methods of prevention such as bigger effort to liaise with other countries to take down sites. The concern is that blocking is not only very ineffective but that the collateral damage includes constraints on innovation and freedom of expression.
This is a war that cannot be won. I’m not saying we should encourage state surveillance but this is a scenario where openness of communication makes more sense.”
Jim Killock, Executive Director of the Open Rights Group (ORG), said:
“The meeting was not able to consider the rights holders’ proposals at the meeting, because they are not yet published. Consumer Focus and others have seen them: and they remain very worrying, although possibly so badly thought out that they are unlikely to see the light of day.
Nevertheless, we must see these proposals for what they are: a lobbying tactic to keep the pressure on enforcement and control, rather than market failure.
The task for ORG and others interested in user rights and the potential of the digital world has to be to set out another agenda, that works in societies’ interests, rather than just those of IP owners. We will be working with the organisations who attended today to make this happen.”
James Firth (Slightly Right of Centre) added:
“It was a chance to short-circuit the negative image those lobbying for the Digital Economy Act had carefully crafted around myself and others opposing the Act. Few – if any – were standing for the right to copy music for free.
Civil liberties arguments aren’t chiefly about the freedom to copy, but the right to due process under law, and the dangers inherent in any system of censorship. Many of these points have been airbrushed by the pro-control lobbying campaign.
Chatting afterwards the general consensus was positive – there is a real possibility of a follow-up meeting. Whether or not rights holders will come to the table with opponents is a different story!”
By the end of this historic meeting Ed Vaizey seemed to be enthusiastic about setting up a new one between the group and Rights Holders. However, many are still suspicious that this event would change anything, and who can blame them after the long history of communication failures (pardon my pun) that lie behind Vaizey’s “righteous” path?
Until then, discussions between Rights Holders and ISPs regarding censorship and the best way to apply it will continue. No agreement has been reached thus far, with differences over costs, the legal process and legal coverage being extremely controversial.