22 November 2008

Save Our Amendment 138

As I wrote below, the Telecoms Package is still with us, and there is still the threat that the crucial Amendment 138, which ensures that there is due judicial oversight, will be deleted. Now, then, is the time to start writing some emails to the ministers concerned, whose addresses in the UK are:

mpst.carter@berr.gsi.gov.uk, mpst.vadera@berr.gsi.gov.uk

Here's what I've just sent:

I writing to in connection with the EU Telecoms Package. In particular, I would like to urge you to ensure that Amendment 138 is not deleted or altered substantively. I believe this is important for four reasons.

First, there is a fundamental issue of law here: that punishments should not be imposed “without a prior ruling by the judicial authorities, notably in accordance with Article 11 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union on freedom of expression and information” as the Amendment puts it. To remove or nullify this Amendment would be to signal that the commercial interests of a group of lobbyists supersedes a citizen's basic right to justice.

Secondly, as you know, the Amendment was introduced and passed after a full debate in the European Parliament. For the Amendment to be dropped or rendered void now would be a clear signal that democratic processes are irrelevant within the inner circle of European ministers. At a time when the European Union is struggling to establish its legitimacy with citizens in Europe, this would again send an appallingly negative signal to ordinary people that could have serious repercussions.

Thirdly, at a time when the British Government is rightly promoting the idea of e-government, and the ability of British citizens to access critically important parts of the democratic system via the Internet, it is self-defeating to introduce the disproportionate punishment of being banned from that same Internet. The Internet is becoming as necessary to modern life as electricity or running water, and nobody would suggest withdrawing these from a criminal, however heinous the crime.

Finally, it is worth noting that introducing such Internet bans would, in any case, have almost no effect on the exchange of copyright materials. An external hard disc with a storage capacity of 1 terabyte – 1000 gigabytes – now costs about £100. On this can be stored around 100,000 Mp3 files. Already, it is becoming common for young people to take such hard discs to parties where they swap music amongst themselves. If the “three strikes” law is introduced, it will simply encourage more people to buy such drives, and to swap not hundreds of files but hundreds of thousands of files at a time: it will actually make the problem worse.

For all these reasons, I urge you to ensure that Amendment 138 remains in the Telecoms Package unaltered.

No comments: