November 22, 2009 | Category: Uncategorized

The Disconnection

I try to avoid anything remotely political on this site, for many reasons, but I feel it worthwhile discussing some of the issues around Peter Mandelson’s Digital Economy Bill: one of the most wrong-headed political policies I’ve seen in the technology space.

In this country we, by and large, have a solid basis for our justice system: we are all innocent until we’re proven guilty. Suspicion of committing a crime is not good enough, it must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. The upshot of this is generally positive. We can’t be accused of something and be punished for it, without proof that we actually did it. This is a fundamental right that allows us the liberty we enjoy.

Importantly, you also can’t be tried by the victim of a crime. If you are accused of stealing from someone, that person cannot serve on the jury, nor can anyone with an obvious bias. You have the right to a fair trial by a jury of your peers.

If we did not have these rights, then it would be all to easy for society to be manipulated by scaremongers and sociopaths, the idiotic and the greedy. One accusation, and you’d be finished. This is not a hypothetical. In our past, we tried people as being witches with no evidence, just an accusation. This has happened before.

Now, the media industry is in a difficult place. They’re making less money than they used to, and want to blame piracy for their failing business models, rather than adapt. That’s a whole deep dark hole of debate by itself, but is not what I want to talk about today.

No, I want to talk about the Digital Economy bill. As a way of stopping the perceived threat of piracy, the Digital Economy bill will give media companies the right to accuse people of copyright infringement and have them disconnected from the internet. Think about that for a second: the accuser gets to blame anyone they like and with no evidence of copyright infringement, have a punishment inflicted upon them.

No trial, no right to see the evidence against you and fight it. You’re presumed to be guilty. This is, of course, the opposite of how justice works at present. We’re basically putting justice into the hands of very large companies to protect their revenue in the way they see fit, whether they are right or wrong. We’re handing liberties over to commercial interests for no benefits.

To me, that is very wrong and I hope you join me in signing the petition to stop this very wrong policy.

For more views, Open Rights Group have a great site up called Three Strikes.