18 October 2019

Brexit Vote: Please Write to Your MP Today

As people may have heard, there is a rather important vote on Brexit tomorrow.  It's going to be very close, so I would like to urge everyone in the UK to write to their MP, asking them to vote against what is in every respect a terrible deal.  

It will not only harm the economy, and the most vulnerable people in UK society, it will also open the way for a catastrophic, crash-out "No Deal" Brexit, with no way for Parliament to stop it.  In short, it's a trap, and one that some foolish MPs seem content to walk into.  

FWIW, here's what I've just sent to my MP.  Please feel free to adapt it for your own communication.  You can find your MP's email address at the wonderful free site WriteToThem, which you can also use to send your message.

This is just a quick note to ask you to vote against the UK government's proposed Brexit agreement tomorrow.
I think you already know its deep problems -  not least the fact that it simply delays, but cannot prevent, a No Deal Brexit, which seems favoured by extreme Brexiters.  But I would also like to urge you to talk to other Labour MPs who seem willing to vote for it in the mistaken belief that it is what their constituents want.
As you know, the present deal will result in a massive hit to the UK economy, which will affect the poorest and most vulnerable sectors of society.  It will lead to workers' rights being eroded, along with crucial environmental protections being jettisoned.  Throw in the fact that a US trade deal will see much of the NHS privatised, and the cost of drugs greatly increased, and it is hard to understand how any Labour MP could contemplate voting for this terrible deal.  I hope you can help them to see this.

03 March 2019

This Could Be The Most Important Email You Will Ever Send To Your MEP

As most people reading this will know by now, the deeply-flawed EU Copyright Directive faces one final vote in the European Parliament soon.  If it passes there, it will become law.  That means we have one final chance to stop it, by writing to our MEPs now.

Those with good memories will remember that we stopped the equally pernicious Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) at the last minute, against all the odds, by writing huge numbers of emails to MEPs, and taking to the streets.  People are already taking to the streets in Germany and elsewhere, and the emails have started flowing, much to the surprise of MEPs.  We need to increase their number greatly to convince MEPs to vote against the worst aspects of the proposed law.

I and others have written so much about the Copyright Directive and its three terrible ideas, that I will only present summaries here, along with links to more detailed information.

First there is Article 3, which covers text and data mining (TDM).  This is an exciting technique for discovering new information by analysing large quantities of text or data.  It is vitally important for the AI technique of machine learning.   And yet Article 3 stupidly limits permission to carry out TDM freely to research institutions.  This means EU startups will be unable to depend upon it as they grow, whereas those in the US and China can.  This guarantees that the EU will become an AI backwater.  More details here:

Why The Copyright Directive Lacks (Artificial) Intelligence

The Right To Read Is The Right To Mine

Article 11 is the "link tax" or "Google tax".  Neither is a very good name.  Really, it is about making every company pay to use even the tiniest snippets from news articles – perhaps even for using more than one word.  What's particularly ridiculous about this idea, is that it has been tried twice – in Germany and Spain – where it failed both times.  It will undermine the key innovation of the Web – hyperlinking information – with no benefit for the newspapers that are pushing for it.  More details here:

Article 11: Driven By Rhetoric, Not By Arithmetic

Finally, and most dangerously, there is Article 13.  Even though those drafting the proposal have cynically avoided the term, it makes the use of automated filters inevitable for most sites holding material uploaded by the public.  Those filters are unable to capture the complexities of EU copyright law, and will therefore over-block to be on the safe side.  In particular, it is impossible for such filters to tell the difference between unauthorised copies of material, and memes that use the same material.  So even if memes are not banned in the text, the end-effect will be for many of them to be blocked.  More details about all these aspects in the following pages:

You Wouldn’t Steal A Meme: The Threat From Article 13

MEPs’ Email Says Article 13 “Will Not Filter The Internet”; Juri MEP’s Tweet Says It Will

Article 13: Putting Flawed Upload Filters At The Heart Of The Internet

Article 13: Making Copyright Unfit For The Digital Age

Article 13: Even Worse Than The Us DMCA Takedown System

Time To Tell The Truth About Article 13

Why Article 13 Is Not Just Dangerous Law-Making, But Deeply Dishonest Too

Fix The Gaping Hole At The Heart Of Article 13: Users’ Rights

Article 13 Is Not Just Criminally Irresponsible, It’s Irresponsibly Criminal

As well as the serious harm the proposed Copyright Directive will cause to the Internet as we know it – born of ignorance or indifference on the part of those drafting it – what is extraordinary about the whole saga is the contempt shown for EU citizens and their views.  Recently, the European Commission published an article that called those opposing the Copyright Directive part of a "mob".  The European Parliament put out a tweet that was full of half-truths and intentionally misleading statements.

The continuing and concerted attempt to belittle EU citizens who dare to argue against the EU's proposed Copyright Directive mean that this is no longer just about copyright or the Internet.  It is about democracy in the EU.  The European Commission and European Parliament are trying to shut down dissent on this topic, just as they did for ACTA.  It is therefore vitally important for EU citizens to write to their MEPs to express their concerns about the Copyright Directive, and also about the way their right to participate in the law-making process has been seriously harmed.  You can use this page to search for MEPs in any EU Member State; in the UK you can use WriteToThem.

I normally provide a sample email text, but on this occasion, I won't.  That's because one lie that is being put about by supporters of the Copyright Directive is that emails to MEPs are being sent by "bots", paid for by Google and others, and not by real people.  For this reason, it is vital that you use your own words when you write to your MEP.  Your email does not need to be long or detailed, but it must be genuine (and polite) if it is to be convincing.  Helping us is the fact that elections for the European Parliament are imminent, so MEPs should be keen to be seen to listen their constituents – something you may wish to mention.

Despite constant claims that the EU Copyright Directive won't affect the Internet, this is simply not true.  It is, without doubt, the most serious threat we have faced since ACTA.  It is vital that, like ACTA, we stop it.  We did it then, we can do it now.  Please write to your MEPs today - it could be the most important email you will ever send them.