Friday, November 20, 2009

Auntie Em is a Pushy Middle-Class Constituent

My local MP, Mr Simon Hughes, will be recieving the following from me (thanks to the awesome Write To Them site.) Because this is going to lead to stupidity like this. (EDIT: I want to make it clear that Simon Hughes is not part of the problem! I'm writing because I'm hoping he will be part of the solution.)

I know I should have rung too. Blame my computer-scientist/academic introversion...


Simon Hughes MP
North Southwark and Bermondsey

Friday 20 November 2009
Emma Byrne

Dear Simon Hughes,

I am writing to express my concern about several measures proposed in the Digital Economy Bill, particularly those that allow for secondary legislation to change the Copyright, Designs and Patents act.

These amendments would allow the secretary of state wide ranging powers to define new penalties without parliamentary scrutiny. They would also allow the secretary of state to hand over investigative powers to bodies such as record companies and film distributors, again with no parliamentary oversight. Such powers are exceedingly troubling, as parliamentary scrutiny is essential if legislation is to have any chance of being effective and proportionate.

I have no confidence in the business secretary's understanding of the domain he is seeking to legislate. This proposal comes hard on the heels of the unworkable "Three Strikes" proposal, that would compel ISPs to suspend accounts suspected of file-sharing. This proposal is unworkable on three counts:

It is unjust: the proposal assumes a one-to-one relationship between users and computers whereas in reality most internet connections are shared. This would lead to collective punishment, where a household, business or even a whole town[1] is disconnected from the internet.

It is unworkable: many wireless internet access points are only weakly secured. Illegal downloads may be carried out without the knowledge of the bill payer [2].

It is unenforceable: again, the relationship between users and computers is not one-to-one. A user whose internet access is suspended by one ISP is still free to access the internet via public hotspots, connections in their place of work or education, or pay-as-you-go mobile "dongles."

As an academic computer scientist I consider these proposals to be breathtakingly technologically naive. I hope I can count on you to subject these proposals to the scrutiny they so desperately require.

Yours sincerely,

Emma Byrne