06 March 2010

More of Lord Clement-Jones' arguements -- and back

Lord Clement-Jones was kind enough to reply to my criticisms directly.

As Lord Clement-Jones wrote directly to me, rather than a stock reply, I do not feel I can reproduce what he said here without his permission. However, he did make several points which I can paraphrase here.

Lord Clement-Jones misunderstood my allusion to mobile networks and phone companies thinking that I believed that the new legislation included such provisions. I did not, and I was using the example hypothetically. He went on to say that UK domestic websites fall within UK copyright law, which we knew, and that many sites already have procedures for removing infringing material -- so why do we need the legislation? Also, that most other services are more regulated than the internet and that the new provisions are "very carefully circumscribed."

Well, I naturally disagree with Lord Clement-Jones, and here is my reply:

Dear Lord Clement-Jones,

I think I did mean "extended reply", but perhaps the irony was misplaced. I did see that the amendment does not force mobile phone or landline operators to police the use of all phones, as that was my point. If there was, hypothetically, some legislation requiring them to do so, this would be seen as intolerable. However, we are expecting ISPs to police content in a way that we would not demand of any other service provider. We do demand such policing of content for broadcasters, but then that leads us to a much larger debate about the difference between broadcasting and the internet -- a debate that needs a great deal more attention before we start legislating it.

Your fourth point is apt as many other services are more regulated, but they are more regulated to ensure freedom of content, freedom of expression and to stop government policing the service without due legal process. If that was the case, then we would be far less concerned with the legislation. Your points, as put, are sensible, but the point remains that we are asking ISPs to police content of a service which is not really a broadcast service, and to do this with a liability that is ill-considered and clearly unjust. ISPs are not broadcasters and do not have an editorial role over the content their service enables, any more than the phone companies or mobile networks have editorial, or any, responsibility over what their users say. It is the lack of understanding of these key differences and key characteristics of the digital networks that has lead to this ill-suited and certainly damaging bill.

Yours sincerely,

Dr. Robin Boast

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