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Documents show the Digital Economy Act was a done deal all along

Public opinion was irrelevant to Lord Mandelson
Mon Aug 01 2011, 13:01

A FREEDOM OF INFORMATION RESPONSE has revealed that Lord Mandelson had decided to approve the Digital Economy Act before public consultations had concluded, showing that there was absolutely no interest in seeing what the public had to say.

The shocking revelations show that Lord Mandelson, who was voted as the Internet Villian of the Year for 2010, made the decision to forge ahead with the Digital Economy Act as much as two months before the end of public consultations, effectively negating any contributions, for or against the proposals, that anyone else could make.

The letters from Mandelson's office reveal that he was in talks with Lucian Grainge, CEO of Universal Music Group, on 2 July 2009. The following day Mandelson advised Lord Carter about the "possibility of [the Secretary of State] having a power to direct Ofcom to go directly to introduction of technical measures."

This means that Mandelson had decided to push the Digital Economy Act into action well before formally announcing this decision on 7 August 2009, over two months later.

Mandelson was criticised at the time for making his decision shortly after visiting a villa in Corfu with David Geffen, the founder of Dreamworks. He denied that this meeting had any impact on his decision, which seems likely to be true, but as Torrentfreak points out, it appears that he had given the Act the green light after discussions with Grainge, which paints an even bigger question mark over the entire process, given Grainge's position in the music industry.

The problem is not the fact that Mandelson had made a decision, but that he feigned that public opinion would be taken into consideration, when in fact it appears that is was just a ruse to keep people quiet while the details of the Act were planned out behind closed doors.

Loz Kaye, leader of the UK Pirate Party, was highly critical of the revelations. He told The INQUIRER, "These documents show how outrageously complicit everyone from the entertainment industry, politicians and unions were in framing the Digital Economy Act. Its most controversial aspect - suspending people from the Internet - was already sorted out in July 2009, and was always the main intention. It appears that the consultation was just for show, and the lobbyists got all they asked for. There are now serious questions to be asked of successive governements' relations with groups like Universal Music and the BPI."

We also spoke with James Firth, CEO of the Open Digital Policy Organisation, who was also critical of the news. He said he hopes "the current [government] will not fall into the trap of paying lip service to public consultations as appears to have happened here." µ


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