I wrote to Charles Clarke MP today, regarding the Digital Economy Bill. You might have heard me mention that a few times over the last few weeks.

If you want to write to your MP, you can do so really easily by clicking here to go to the 38Degrees website.

Here’s what I wrote:

Dear Mr Clarke,

I am writing regarding the Digital Economy Bill, which is currently being rushed through without a proper Parliamentary debate. This is the primary factor in deciding where my vote goes in the upcoming election.

All important changes to law, especially ones that affect people’s rights and freedoms (as does this bill), should be subject to proper examination and debate. This is part of what separates the United Kingdom from oppressive regimes elsewhere in the world.

I would recommend talking to groups such as the Open Rights Group or experts such as Cory Doctorow regarding the technical details of the Bill. What I would like to talk about is how it will affect me directly.

The censorship and disconnection powers in the Bill would target me both in my job and in my creative pursuits.

I work for a Norwich-based software developer called FXhome. We’ve been in business since 2001, providing products to help young, independent filmmakers with their productions. We’ve seen the Internet become an incredible learning and promotional tool for these independent voices, who operate outside of the studio system. The Internet, through online forums, social networks such as Facebook and video websites like YouTube, offer opportunities unprecedented in human history – any filmmaker now has access to a global audience, regardless of their budget or studio connections (or lack thereof).

The possibility of these communities being censored would restrict our business hugely. Despite being a small Norwich business of just 12 employees (many local staff and UEA graduates) we operate on a global scale with most of our customers in the USA. This Bill could easily result in the UK being a no-go area for creative industries, for fear of copyright breaches and disproportionate censorship. We would be forced to move our operation abroad to ensure any kind of stability.

Outside of my paid work, I am a writer and filmmaker myself. I am frequently involved in collaborative projects with people from all over the world. Film projects inherently generate massive amounts of data, with video files easily occupying hundreds or thousands of megabytes of data. Exchanging these files via email is not technically possible. Exchanging the files on physical disc can take time and be expensive or impractical when collaborating with teams from all over the world – plus it generates a lot of physical media that only gets thrown away later.

The best solution is to use so-called ‘digital lockers’. I personally use a system called Dropbox, which enables me to securely exchange files with other computers in my house and around the world without needing expensive server hosting. It enables me to write my novel at home and at work without needing to manually transfer files (the government itself has demonstrated repeatedly how physically taking data out of the office can be a major security risk…). I’m also using this system to collaborate with my retired father as he works on his first book, which is scheduled for publication in 2011.

My point is that these technologies are used for legitimate purposes every day by thousands of people of all backgrounds. Destroying these services for UK Internet users would stifle British creativity and cripple the digital economy and the many innovative businesses that rely on it.

The 20th century music industry fears the Internet because it is a new business model. But they should be adapting and embracing its new opportunities, rather than forcing government to apply artificial restrictions in order to perpetuate their out-dated strategies. They certainly shouldn’t be allowed to write the new bill themselves, unchallenged, as seems to be the case with the Digital Economy Bill.

There are many other problems with the Digital Economy Bill, as have been addressed by industry experts, security experts, Internet Service Providers and major players such as BT, Google and Yahoo.

As a constituent I am writing to you today to ask you to do all you can to ensure the Government doesn’t just rush the bill through and deny us our democratic right to scrutiny and debate. Regardless of my objections to this specific bill, I don’t think any major new laws should be rushed through without proper examination.

The Liberal Democrats are moving towards making a stand – can I expect a similarly principled approach from Labour?

Yours sincerely,

Simon Jones


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