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The Digital Economy Bill is Here To Stay, So Get Over It?

April 12, 2010 Leave a comment

The passing of this controversial bill by the UK House of Commons evoked major outrage by a vociferous and connected online public. But what is the real issue at stake here? Is it the bill itself, or is it the rushed ‘wash up’ process through which it will apparently now become law? Or then again, is it just the petulant chagrin of a seemingly thwarted group of connected people?

On the 7th of April 2010, the BBC News website reported that: “MPs Approve Digital Economy Bill”. But that simple headline does not convey the online drama that occurred during the voting process, which resulted in an overwhelming 189 for, and 47 votes against, the bill in what is increasingly perceived at best to be a rushed job in the wash-up period before the general elections. All this and more can be found by simply doing a search on Twitter for tweets with hash tag: #debill.

To all intent and purposes, the progress of this bill and the process involved to get it thus far also highlights certain observations, as noted in near real-time commentary by various bloggers and tweets, amongst which include:

  1. Democracy is changing, at an observable pace, as witnessed by the onslaught of comments and expressions of disgust at the unseemly haste at which this bill has moved through the parliamentary process
  1. The power of social networks to channel the messages and sentiment of what is still really only a small group of people (when compared to the overall UK population) is remarkable. It makes one wonder what it would be like when everyone else in the world has such a voice
  1. Unintended consequences, as a direct result of the aforementioned haste, are almost a certainty, but that’s a headache of the next elected government, which in the grand scheme of things may only be a fair price to pay for whoever gets into power next month

In any case, it might appear that once this bill becomes law, ordinary citizens and businesses will just have to get on with it, as usual. But it’s not all bad news; because not only will the new government have to firefight any fallout from this debacle, they will also have a great opportunity (or burden) to get it right by launching an education campaign in support of this law. This is necessary in order to help people understand how they can pursue a lawful existence online, without falling foul of the law and possibly facing the threat of disconnection from the matrix, *ahem* the Internet. How this can be done well will be the subject of my next blog / magazine articles, so watch this space.

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Note: This post was previously published on my BCS DRM Blog, where you can find the original post, and reader comments, in the archives.

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