Pirate Party UK Strongly Condemns Passage of the Digital Economy Bill

Today marks a sombre day for Britain's digital future as Members of Parliament appeared from the woodwork to force through fatally flawed and disturbingly draconian piece of legislation, despite wide-ranging objections from all corners of the chamber both over the content of the Bill and the manner in which it was passed.

The majority of MPs were reportedly under a deeply inappropriate three-line whip - meaning any revolt held the most severe punishments - effectively forcing a vote in favour despite it being one of the most contentious bills of recent years. Fewer than 50 MPs defied the front benches to vote against the bill.

Members of the Pirate Party joined thousands of people from around the world in watching and commenting on the debate and were left profoundly disappointed, although unsurprised, with the outcome.

Despite both opposition parties pledging to do their job by opposing the controversial aspects of the Bill, neither put up a significant fight with most of the debate being between the front and back benches of the Labour Party with the shadow ministers more interested in scoring party-political points than debating the issues at hand, and a very poor showing from the Liberal Democrats contrary to assurances that they would block the bill at every opportunity.

Graeme Lambert, Pirate Party UK candidate for Bury North, said;

"It was painfully obvious to anyone watching the broadcast from Parliament this evening that any MP that only turned up for the divisions and not the debate does not care about the views of their constituents, does not care about democracy and does not care about the future of Britain's digital economy."
"The Minister for Digital Britain, Stephen Timms, appeared to spend much of his time on the floor delaying debate, and refusing to answer questions put to him, instead relying on the party whips to force the vote through, essentially ignoring the concerns raised by voters in their questions put to ministers,"

noted Mark Sims, Pirate Party UK candidate for East Ham.

However, there were a few glimmers of hope amid the morass of apathy for citizen's rights in the chamber tonight, in the shape of Labour MPs John Grogan, Austin Mitchell, Nick Palmer, Tom Watson, Conservative MP Bill Cash and Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming, amongst others. These MPs not only listened to the electorate, but also to professionals, academics and artists, and realised that the bill was - to quote Nick Palmer, Tom Watson and Austin Mitchell - nothing short of a "front-bench stitch-up" that is a "bulldozer to democracy" and like "using a sledgehammer to crack a nut".

The Pirate Party UK would also like to take this opportunity to applaud Tom Watson and the other valiant MPs who broke the three-line whip for having the passion and devotion to stand up for what they believe is right. If British politics were filled with more men like Mr Watson and his colleagues, the country might never have been brought into this dire legislative situation in the first place.

One thing was made clear today; whether they realise it or not, many MPs support Pirate Party UK ideals, calling for non-commercial infringement to be exempt from the bill. John Hemming MP, Liberal Democrat (and, surprisingly, a member of the BPI, PRS and Musicians' Union) even called for a total review of copyright, while echoing many Pirate Party freedom of speech policies, and making well-conceived, technical points on the flaws of the bill.

The law will not stop copyright infringement, it will simply drive it behind encryption and obfuscation techniques, and will effectively criminalise over 6 million Britons, children, teens and adults alike, all for a protectionist attempt to protect a dying industry.

Parliament does not need to protect, or even encourage analogue-age business models if it wants a Digital Britain; they must either engage with new technology or suffer the consequences, as with any other business. This is an adapt-or-die situation: the struggling sectors of the content industries have failed to conform to the digital revolution, and should not be rescued for clinging to their antiquated business model.

It has been made abundantly clear tonight that the main parties in Parliament cannot be trusted to maintain and protect the rights of citizens and small businesses online in the 21st century, therefore it is time to vote for one that can. It is time to Vote Pirate.

Thursday, 8 April, 2010 - 01:15
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