Lib Dems move to clip Mandelson’s power over copyright

The Digital Economy Bill currently going through Parliament would give Peter Mandelson huge powers to rewrite the country’s copyright laws in future – and all without much in the way of Parliamentary scrutiny or checks and balances.

There’s widespread unhappiness about the legislation amongst Lib Dem grassroots activists. Now Liberal Democrat peer Tim Clement-Jones has tabled an amendment to the Digital Economy Bill to delete the controversial Clause 17.

He’s said:

This clause would give the Government carte-blanche to change all copyright law relating to the internet as and when they please.

Such powers are unnecessary and over-reaching and we have tabled an amendment to delete Clause 17.

Good news.

Whilst the Parliamentary Party’s approach seems to the Digital Economy Bill seems to be leaning heavily in favour of the music industry overall (e.g. not pushing the music industry to update its licensing practices to reflect wider technological developments in the way that we regularly expect of other sectors), it’s good that concerns about overweening central government power and civil liberties are coming through strongly in the party’s approach.

So, for example whilst Don Foster said in July 2008, “The only way the music industry can deal with this in the long-term is to do a lot more to promote legal downloading websites through low prices and innovative products”, more recently the party has highlighted only the stick side of what should be a balance of carrot and stick.

Both on the official Liberal Democrat website and in an internal news summary reporting on Tim Razzall’s speech in the Lords on the Digital Economy Bill, the message was only about needing to crack down on downloading/sharing.

It looks as if the very extensive lobbying campaign run by those parts of the music industry who want lots of stick and nearly no carrot has been having an impact on the party’s approach.

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