DIGITAL FREEDOM ADVOCATES The Pirate Party, which probably knows more about copyright and digital restrictions management than the entire UK government, has responded to Ofcom's Digital Economy Act (DEA) consultation, which ended last Friday.
While the government chose to rely on the wholly impartial input of the UK recording industry and master of the dark arts Peter Mandelson in drawing up the Digital Economy Act, it has now apparently seen a little bit of sense, and will actually, potentially, listen to the views of others, something that it could have done in the first place.
It's old news that when out of power the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats said they would repeal the Act, and slightly newer news that they did not when they got into power, but the consultation is new, and so is The Pirate Party's response.
Currently the code sets out how copyright holders can unleash the dogs of law on Internet users when they suspect that users might be leeching some of the filth the industry puts out.
The Pirate Party accepts that Ofcom's involvement might stem the flow of ill-targeted and threatening legal letters sent to Internet users, but added that an "alarming number of elements" are lacking from the document. In the face of this fact it suggested that Ofcom fling the Code draft back at the government and wait for it to sort it all out.
"The Code lacks purpose and intention," it warns, adding that it has failed in its intention to create recompense measures that are "proportionate to what they are intended to achieve".
The Pirate Party added that the document is lacking in balance, and is "clearly set up to aid only the more powerful businesses, not small, independent companies or individuals who will not have the legal or financial resources to use the measures included in the Code."
The Code is lacking in areas other than balance, purpose and intention, and The Pirate Party said that it lacks clarity and consideration, oh, and understanding of the market and the technologies involved. Ah, and proportionality, and, it seems, a basic grasp of the concept of justice. It is also undemocratic and not supported by any evidence. In short, it is lacking.
All these gaps could create a code of practice that is as useful as it is informed, The Pirate Party warned, and it said the Code will leave businesses, individuals, libraries and universities uncertain about their obligations. This confusion, it explained, could lead to sleepless nights as administrators worry that a fine of up to £250,000 could land on their desks at any time.
Meanwhile, its soggy paper bag definitions about the problems associated with running an open wireless network could harm plans for any large-scale WiFi networks anywhere in the UK, should the Code come into effect as is. And lack of understanding of the network technologies involved could mean that an IP address might be taken as sufficient proof of a subscriber's identity.
This latter concern was particularly worrying as, if this is deemed 'sufficient evidence', it would give the BPI heavies carte blanche to kick in any doors they fancy. The Pirate Party added that this construction remained in the document despite numerous academics and technical experts stating that an IP address was in no way enough to identify someone. But that's okay, as the government has listened to "agents working on behalf of Copyright Owners" in drawing up the Act.
Andrew Robinson, leader of The Pirate Party, said, "We believe that Ofcom has been placed in an impossible position by the obligations imposed on it by the Digital Economy Act. There are inevitably many loopholes in the draft code, many terms used that are ill-defined, and many potential issues with human rights, European law. We suggest that Ofcom should force the Government to take responsibility for the problems with the Act by writing a code that fulfils its legal obligations under that act, but is unusable."
The government might respond to these criticisms by email or, potentially, by flying pig sent out from the ice-rimmed maw of Hell. But most likely, it will just ignore them, and then wonder why it loses the next election. µ
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