Sunday, 11 April 2010

Digital Economy Bill How Michael Connarty Performed

I've been kind of busy since the Digital Economy Bill was discussed and sadly passed in Parliament during the week.

Readers may remember that I stressed my concerns, and those of a number of constituents who had written to me about the various clauses in the Bill. On the day of the rushed committee stage of the bill many amendments were raised, spoken about and then withdrawn by the proposers purely as an expediency of time. That was the shameful way in which this complex bill was rushed through the elected house. If there had been sufficient times these amendments would have been properly discussed at committee stage and where there was dissent put to the vote.

I'd also stressed those concerns to my Labour opponent in the election, who is of course also my own MP. He responded initially with the response 'I agree'. When I wrote to him again earlier this week, he replied 'this is something that [he] will leave up to the front benches'. So how did he perform in the debate.

First up after a little bit of back of forth of pointless identifying which Star Wars © 1977 character various members of Parliament were he got called to make his first intervention.

"I am listening with great interest to my hon. Friend and I am a great follower of Star Wars. I realise now, however, that my hon. Friend has identified himself as Yoda [© 1981]."

You wonder just how much interest he was paying to the concerns of the bill or of his constituents that his first intervention was that.

I too am a great fan of Star Wars © 1977 , I also love the number of parodies that are available through YouTube etc. Heck even Doctor Who last night was again full of references to Star Wars © 1977 and indeed other other science fiction. You have to wonder would the BBC have to be shut down for blatantly stealing copyrighted material. The line "Help me Doctor, you're our only hope." being a prime example.

Ok Pete Wishart, got up to speak soon after. Pete is one of the few MPs of whom I have bought some of his copyrighted material, both as CDs and indeed to see him perform live. Other's do include Charles Kennedy, William Hague and Vince Cable, although theirs are merely books and haven't been copied unto my laptop, like Runrig, so I can listen to them wherever I am.

During Wishart's speech Connarty rose again to say:

"I am grateful to another vice-chairman of the Performers Alliance group in this House for giving way. Is it not a myth that co-operation, as we have heard, could somehow solve this? People are not talking about co-operating and sharing their own thoughts and content, but are stealing someone else's content and sharing that. There is an Armageddon, which has partially arrived in Sweden, where the Pirate party, whose leader is in jail, won seats in the European Parliament on the basis that everybody's work-including MP4's-should be free."

Therein lies an issue, these two are part of a Parliamentary group protecting performers rights. Thing is I am a performer, I've played in bands, I've written songs, poems and written a lot of stuff to which I hold the intellectual property rights and copyright. A lot of that I have given freely to public use. Some of it I still make a small amount of revenue from. But we see that Michael has sort of declared an interest there, he's also the chair of the Parliamentary Jazz Appreciation Group, another vested interest in this debate.

His final intervention came during on of Tom Watson's contributions.

"I respect my hon. Friend's forward thinking, but he obviously has not studied his history. The enclosure movement took away the enclosures around small fields to make larger fields so that larger technologies could be used. When all enclosures were taken away in America, the ultimate result was that the wind blew the topsoil off the land and the people starved. I think that he has got his analogy entirely wrong."

I'm not sure but is Connarty telling the farming community that they better replant their hedges and make their fields smaller again here. He's also missing one thing that our whole world depends on, diversity. Options of what needs to be done has to meet the needs where the situation exists. Using the analogy of the American plains where the larger fields in tornado alley did have this effect does not apply to East Anglia where the vast fields still thrive. Thus it is with the move to a digital economy.

There are arguments that the technology that powers up most computers Microsoft's own operation system is actually stolen property from the University where the founders first came up with the idea. The same could be said of the largest search engine Google. In the enclosures that these projects first started out they were small and unlikely to get anywhere, once however they were unleashed by whatever means they have become essential to our everyday existence.

That folks in why the Digital Economy Bill fudge in the wash up period is bad for all of us. Also why my Labour opponent in 4 weeks time has clearly not got it over digital economic matters. He clearly should have sought better counsel than his own front bench.

In the end he voted for the Bill, hardly agreeing with me about the concerns within it as he emailed me initially.


  1. Star Wars might be © 1977, but Yoda is © 1981 - he first appeared in Empire Strikes Back.

    Microsoft isn't stolen from Harvard - they didn't come up with DOS until long after Gates and Allen dropped out (they bought it from Seattle Computer Products). Google's MapReduce was written while Brin and Page were at Stanford, but PhD work is usually regarded as being the property of the student; after all, they are not being paid by the University, but rather the reverse.

  2. Ok thanks for point one and correcting that recurring joke.

    Point two. Blah! Still it does spark the debate where is original thought and what does it lead to. Too much over regulation and we could lose such developments.