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Friday, April 09, 2010

What the MP did next.

I feel I have to write a follow up to my earlier post regarding my boiling blood and the lack of response from my elected representative.

I have this morning received a letter from Mr Parmjit Dhanda and I feel I have to at least give him credit for doing his job, if not entirely in the way I would have liked. Here's the letter in full:

08 April 2010
(Handwritten)
Dear (Redacted)

(Typed)
Digital Economy Bill

Thank you very much for taking the time to contact me recently on the Digital Economy Blll, you raise an important issue and one I take an interest in as Vice President of the All Party Group on Telecommunications.

I apologise that there seems to have been some delay in replying. I have spoken to my staff and according to our records we had sent a response to you on this issue, informing you that I had written to Rt Hon Stephen Timms MP, the Minister for Digital Britain in order to raise your concerns at the highest possible level. I can only apologise if you did not receive this letter.

I have now received a response from Mr Timms and have included it with this letter, I hope you find it interesting and informative. Unfortunately in the fast moving world of politics things can become out-of-date very quickly. Mr Timms' letter is no exception as just last night certain parts of the Bill were modified or dropped as it passed through the House of Commons.

Overall I believe the Digital Economy Bill was an ambitious piece of legislation which will equip our country for the digital age by providing the infrastructure needed to ensure the country's creative industries can flourish. Among other things it will overhaul the broadcasting industry, start the ball rolling on radio switchover, ensure high-speed broadband access for all, and deal with internet piracy. The Bill was of course not without problems and I was pleased to see that the efforts of backbenchers in Parliament have meant that some of the controversial aspects of the Bill have been reformed or dropped altogether. Today the bill is being considered for a final time in the Lords, where peers are expected to rubber stamp the legislation.

I'm sure you will be pleased to see that the most controversial part of the bill - clause 18 - which handed the high court powers to grant injunctions forcing ISPs to block access to online sites has now been withdrawn. I hope this will mean that the Bill can be seen as a comfortable middle ground, balancing the rights of internet users to their online privacy and the rights of recording artists and film makers to receive fair payment for their efforts.

Thanks again for taking the time to write to me, if I can ever be of any further help to you on any other Parliamentary matter please don't hesitate to get back in touch.

With best wishes,

Yours sincerely,

Parmjit Dhanda
Member of Parliament for Gloucester

What has piqued my interest here though, is the handwritten PS at the bottom of the letter:

P.S. I did read your blog and I'm sorry you didn't get an earlier reply.

Interesting stuff, and the letter to Mr Dhanda from Mr Timms:


Parmjit Dhanda MP
House of Commons
London
SWlA OAA

(handwritten)1 (typed)April 2010

Dear Parmjit,

Thank you for your letter of 18 March, enclosing correspondence from your constituent, (blank space), about the Digital Economy Bill.

The Government wants as many people as possible to enjoy all the benefits that broadband internet can bring. New technology has changed the way people access content, but we need to make sure that those who use the internet to access music, films etc pay the appropriate charge for doing so. On-line copyright infringement is a serious problem, and we have been working closely with rights holders, media companies and internet firms on practical solutions.

Everyone would prefer a voluntary rather than a regulatory solution, but it has not proved possible to achieve one. The Digital Economy Bill, published on 20 November 2009, sets out in detail our proposed legislation to tackle unlawful peer to peer file-sharing. The Report can be found at: http://www.dcms.gov.uk/what_we_do/broadcasting/5631.aspx.

The details on the Bill can be found at:
http://interactive.bis.gov.uk/digitalbritain/digital-economy-bill/

The legislation will require ISPs to write to their customers with accounts identified by a rights holder as having downloaded their material unlawfully. ln the cases of the most serious infringers, if a rights holder obtains a court order, the ISP would have to provide information so that the rights holder can take court action.

No representative of interested parties would sit on either the independent body or the Tribunal, and no technical measure would be introduced until the appeals process is exhausted.

Originally, the power in clause 11 to apply technical obligations was drafted sutficiently widely as to allow it to be used for any purposes. This was a concern that was also raised by the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee. lt was always the Government's intention that this power should only be used in relation to those who are the subject of repeated copyright infringement notices and we believe that, even as originally drafted, the legislation would have had that effect because of surrounding clauses in the Bill.

However, in order to be absolutely clear on the matter, the Government has already introduced an amendment to the Bill to restrict the effect of any technical measure under clause 11 to subscribers who have received repeated notifications but continue to be identified in infringement. There will be a full appeals process, including to a First Tier Tribunal, which is a judicial body. The full appeals process must be exhausted before any technical measure is imposed.

We are not requiring ISPs to monitor for unlawful file-sharing. Nor are we proposing that ISPs look at what users download in order to combat piracy. The way in which cases of alleged copyright infringement are discovered involves identifying material offered to other users for download in breach of copyright, rather than any monitoring of an individual's internet account for downloads.

The process identifies the lP address of an uploader (under the legislation, making material available for copying is a breach of copyright) using publicly available information, and does not look at what an individual downloads. Under the legislation, it is the rights holders who will identify cases of alleged copyright infringement, not the ISPs. A fuller description of the proposed process to identify unlawful file-sharers was included in the 2008 consultation document and in the Explanatory Notes which accompany the Digital Economy Bill. These can be found at:

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200910/ldbills/001/en/10001x--.htm

Please thank (blank space) for taking the trouble to raise this issue with us.

(handwritten) Yours ever, Stephen

STEPHEN TIMMS

A quick look at my log and I find that Mr Dhanda had used Blog Search for the phrase "parmjit dhanda" on the 8th April (9:48 if you want to be exact) so that he could read my "blood boiling" rant. Of course there are a few other interesting gems of info from the logfile, but it would be unfair of me to share them all. Although if Mr Dhanda is reading this, some neighbourly advice, I would recommend a browser upgrade when you get a minute ;-) IE6 has passed on.

Mr Dhanda certainly deserves credit for doing his research here, and I'd be interested to know how many other MP's would have even bothered ?? or better yet, if they're educated centrally in carrying out such searches (That's my paranoia showing through. Mr Orwell has a lot to answer for). Fascinating stuff.

Mr Timm's letter is clearly a mass produced one, which serves as some indication that the department in question has had to respond to many concerns on the same subject. It is informative and goes a little way to helping me feel better about the bill's intent.

Even Mr Dhanda (who didn't vote on it) says it was an ambitious piece of legislation, and I'd agree. Mr Timm's does appear to have bitten off more than he can chew, and I still remain surprised that it's passed it's 3rd reading, getting rubber stamped and will clearly become law.

One can only hope that further reform's to this law will be forthcoming as we stumble through this intentionally well conceived, but not fully thought out piece of legislation, evidenced by the number of suggested changes even during it's final reading.



I don't believe for a minute that I can solve the issues with the way parliament works, but there are two things that I think could really make a difference to the public's perception of democracy in this great country.

1. No more whips - An elected representative is elected to make representations on behalf of those that elected them, not on behalf of a whip.

2. MP's should be allowed to vote without being in the chamber, but only if they can provide evidence that they have attended all of the associated readings. This would require some geeky, tech, but is completely achievable. It would also mean that your MP has no excuse not to vote. Far more work would be done without all the travel backwards and forwards for voting.

OR and this one is right out there....

2. Let the people vote and not the MP's (controversial hey?)

I think that should be the public's ultimate goal, and the results could be very interesting indeed. Whether the "we the people" would ever be allowed to do this, I have no idea.
 

Where is Golfyball?

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