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Harringay, Haringey - So Good they Spelt it Twice!

This is an update to the previous discussion on David Lammy and my communications with him.

As some of you may know, I wrote to him a while ago expressing my concerns about the Digital Economy Bill, which has now passed and become an Act.

Before the final vote, I received a letter from him (dated 31 March) containing, among other things, the following:

"I have received many letters expressing concerns about this Bill and the fact that it will not be subject to the full extent of Parliamentary debate and scrutiny."

"I have also written to Harriet Harman MP to raise your concerns with her. I have asked her to re-assure you that the Bill will receive the necessary and desired scrutiny from Parliament."

I would imagine that this implies he shared my concerns. However, I have checked the voting records and it appears Mr. Lammy voted for the passing of the Bill during the wash-up, and therefore effectively lied to me.

Now, I am not so naive that I think politicians tell the truth all the time, but I do think that this is a really dishonest and disgusting letter given his subsequent actions. I would much prefer that he declared his support for the Bill openly (he is, after all, a member of Peter Mandelson's department) rather than simply hiding the truth from me.

Therefore, I will not only not be voting for Mr Lammy, I will also be notifying as many fellow constituents as possible between now and May 6th that he was dishonest with me, and that he committed a miscarriage of Parliamentary procedure along with all other MPs who voted the Bill through without proper debate. He knew that Digital Economy Bill had vast implications for the future of copyright law and the internet, and possible prosecution of his constituents, and yet he supported it.

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I got the same letter and didn't have the same reaction to you. As people have commented in my blog, he votes with the government because he's a minister.

A colleague got an impressive (if of dubious philosophical merit) three page letter from his MP Frank Dobson outlining why he was voting for the bill. He said he had just as many letters in support of it as in opposition too.
It's a sad fact with party politics that the MP's that are meant to be representing their constituents actually end up representing the party that they have aligned themselves with.

They are meant to lobby the party to adopt policies that representy their voters, but it becomes a matter of priorities, and compromises.

In regards top your statement "he committed a miscarriage of Parliamentary procedure", I'd have to ask what procedure? He might have been dishonest with you , but I cannot say whether he shared your concerns or wrote to Harriet Harman MP. Even if he did, unless he said in the letter he would not be voting for the bill, he may not have misled you.

All that being said: I'm not voting for him either!
He used to be Minister for Intellectual Property so I pretty much knew his position before I wrote to him.

Like I said, as long as he's representing the under-represented and excluded to the east of us he still has my vote but I think this time he's been sold a dummy. Digital Exclusion Act = don't let poor or young people run server class software on the internets (it doesn't as yet say anything about free WiFi which is useless for being a server).
"In regards top your statement "he committed a miscarriage of Parliamentary procedure", I'd have to ask what procedure?"

All major new bills are usually given weeks for proper debate, scrutiny and amendment, but this bill was rushed through in the wash-up by the Labour party with next to no time for debate in the Commons. This, to me, is the miscarriage of parliamentary procedure, and a blatant abuse of the wash-up which is designed for voting on bills that have already been properly debated and scrutinised.
The Conservative party voted in favour of the DEB too.
But is that procedure or convention?

If both major parties were in favour of the bill as tabled, then I would not expect my taxes to be wasted on a fruitless debate.

The issue is really the lack of intention to scrutinise and debate, not following Parlimentary Procedure, as that would make the bill legally questionable as well as morally.
I had more information from David Lammy regarding my letter to him over the DEB (now the DEA). This is a letter from Stephen Timms the Minister for "Digital Britain". I leave you to judge how qualified this person is to be doing this job for yourselves but despite having to type it in by hand I'm confident that all the errors are his (on-line instead of online and band width instead of bandwith were two that caught my eye). Other "digital" gaffes are noted on his wikipedia page.

Dear David

Thank you for your letter of 18 March to Peter Mandelson, about the concerns of your constituent, Mr John McMullan (redacted), regarding illegal file sharing. I am replying as the matter falls within my portfolio.

The Government wants as many people as possible to enjoy all the benefits that broadband internet can bring. New technology has changed the way people access content, but we need to make sure that those who use the internet to access music, films etc pay the appropriate charge for doing so. On-line copyright infringement is a serious problem, and we have been working closely with rights holders, media companies and internet firms on practical solutions.

Everyone would prefer a voluntary rather than a regulatory solution, but it has not proved possible to achieve one. The Digital Economy Bill, published on 20 November 2009, sets out in detail our proposed legislation to tackle unlawful peer to peer file-sharing. The Report can be found at: http://www.dcms.gov.uk/what_we_do/broadcasting/5631.aspx.

The details on the Bill can be found at:

The legislation will require Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to write to their customers with accounts identified by a rights holder as having downloaded their matierial unlawfully. In the cases of the most serious infringers, if a rights holder obtains a court order, the ISP would have to provide information so that the rights holder can take court action.

We hope the process of notifications, coupled with more education of consumers on the importance of rewarding creators for their content and the development and proliferation of legal online content offerings, will secure the 70% reduction in illegal peer to peer file sharing which is our aim. If that proves not to be the case, the Bill provides a reserve power obliging an ISP to apply 'technical measures' to a customer's internet account to restrict or prevent illegal sharing. Technical measures wil not be introduced until at least a year after the notification process starts.

If technical measures are introduced they will only be applied to those who have recieved repeated notifications but continue to be indentified in infringement. Technical measures might be a band width restriction, a daily downloading limit or, as a last resort, temporary account suspension. There will be a full appeals process, including to a First Tier Tribunal, which is a judicial body.

More widely, we want a reserve power to amend the Copyright Design and Patent Act. This will allow us to tackle quickly any misuse of emerging technologies for copyright infringement and provide an element of future proofing.

These measures were adopted following two consultations on file-sharing and extensive meetings with all stakeholders. Both consultations, the representations made and the Government's responses can be found at: http://www.ber.gov.uk/consultations/closedwithresponse/index.html.

We also recognise the need for proper consumer education and attractive new legal sources of content, alongside the system of notifications, so that unlawful behaviour is no longer the "default" for many seeking content on-line. Rights holders need business models which work in the new digital environment. We welcomed announcements such as the Virgin Media and Universal agreement, the development of Spotify and the music offers announced by Vodafone and Sky. These types of agreement will play a critical role in moving the great majority of people away from piracy.

I do not agree that our planned measures will prevent private enterprise as will as universities, libraries and the like from offering internet access. All these types of establishment would be able to take action to prevent infringement on their networks. Many already do so and in fact, in many cases, their activities to prevent infringement already go far beyond what we are proposing. Universities, schools, etc currently receive notices of infringement from copyright owners, but there is inconsistency in how these establishments react to these notices, and uncertainty as to the legal position. Our proposals will bring regulatory certainty and consistency.

The "graduated response" or "3 strikes and you're out" system has been discussed between the different industry parties in the context of voluntary solutions, and it is the basis on which France is moving to implement. However the position in France is somewhat different - copyright breach is a criminal not civil offence in France - and we understand that they will also be making it an offence if a broadband subscriber does not protect their wireless connections. In our view a simple 3 strikes approach (ie three separate instances of copyright infringement and you would face a disconnection) is disproportionate, and we will not be adopting it in the UK.

Please thank Mr McMullan for taking the trouble to raise this issue with us.

Stephen Timms
This is the covering letter I had with Stephen Timm's letter. Again typed in by hand but obvious which one did maths and which one did law. I hate to take him away from what I regard as the most important job he has, representing the people of Tottenham, but do any other nerds want to take him up on his offer of an appointment to see him about it?

Dear Mr McMullan

I have had a response from Harriet Harman, Deputy Leader of the House of Commons, concerning the passage of the Ditigal Economy Bill through the Houses of Parliament and also a response from Stephen Timms, the Minister for Digital Britain. Both responses are attached to this letter.

You may be aware that the Bill has now been passed into law, and I understand that you have some concerns over the level of scrutiny it received. I would like to reasure you that although the Bill has been passed in the 'wash up' period that precedes a general election, which means the process was more rapid than may otherwise have been the case, it nervertheless recieved ample scrutiny. Ms Harman informs me that it received three days at the Lords Report Stage and seven days in Committee, which is more than any other Bill (from the Queen's speech) being passed at this time.

This process led to a number of amendments to the Bill, including a transfer of power to impose restrictions from the Secretary of State to the Courts, and the removal of clause 43, which addresses photography in public places.

In terms of where we go from here, one of the most contentious aspects of the Bill has been the clause giving power to the Courts to block access to internet sites in relation to copyright infringement. That the Courts will have this power is no longer subject to debate, but there will be further scrutiny by the Commons with regards to the nature of these regulations.

The volume of debate generated by this element of the Bill means that this process of forming the regulations will be subject to a 'super-affirmative' procedure. The full details of this procedure are in the attached letter. I hope that this development serves to reasure you that the Bill is receiving sufficient attention from publicly accountable representatives.

I understand that you may still have issues or points of contention with the Bill. However, I hope you can appreciate that the issues it addresses are in serious need of attention. The protection of business, and taking full advantage of new technology to drive our economy, are of high importance, but it should also be remembered that the interests of thousands of working people will also be protected. The Bill has recieved enthusiastic support from the TUC, reflecting the safegarding of thousands of jobs within the creative industries.

If you have any other questions, or want to discuss the bill in further detail, please do not hesitate to contact my office again or arrange an appointment to see me.

Yours sincerely

David Lammy
Labour Candidate for Tottenham
And this is the "Harriet Harman" response. Slightly pathetic but I guess someone is busy and in need of getting laid, preferably in Parliament (apologies to Sigmund Freud).


Thank you for your letter of 31 March to the Leader of the House of Commons on behalf of your constituents about the Digital Economy Bill. I have been asked to reply.

The Digital Economy Bill has had considerable scrutiny in the House of Lords. It received 3 days at Lords Report Stage 7 days in Committee. This is more than any other Bill in the programme.

There will be a further chance for scrutiny in this House at the time of making the regulations to give powers to the Courts to block access to internet sites in relation to copyright infringement. As this element of the Bill has generated much debate in the House of Commons, the regulations will be subject to a Super Affrimative procedure, which will operate in the following way:

  • There will be a public consultation on the draft regulations prior to being laid in Parliament.
  • Regulations will be laid in draft in the House with an explanation of why they satisfy the necessary thresholds which are required in order to make the regulations. These thresholds are set out on the face of the Bill.
  • At the same time the public consultation response is published.
  • Draft regulations sit in the House for 60 days. At the same time Committees of both Houses will consider the regulations.
  • Final regulations, which take into account recommendations from the Committees will be laid in Parliament and will be subject to normal affrimative procedure.
In the emergency Business Statement on Tuesday, the Leader of the House announced that consideration in Committee and Remaining Stages of the Digital Economy Bill will be debated today. However, the Bill will only progress in the 'wash-up' on the basis of consensus.

I hope that this information has been helpful.

Barbara Keeley
Well done John , keep up the good work
Here is my reply to David Lammy and actually it's more directed at Stephen Timms. We could have him as an MP, or even Nadine Dorries.

Thank you for your reply to my DEB letter. Now of course the DEA. I appreciate your taking the time to reply and I do understand that I should be the least of your problems in Tottenham. I am not a likely victim of knife or gun crime, or of sexual assualt for instance. That said, I feel compelled to reply, especially to Mr Timms letter.

If parliamentarians should have learnt anything over the past 13 years, it's that rushing things is bad and legislation created by lobbyists and policemen is not in the interests of their constituents.

The argument that the bill was given lots of time was specious. It lacked context and was almost insulting. Do you think the fox hunting ban, debated endlessly, was any more important?

Photographers hold copyright to any pictures they take and deserve protection. Musicians, for example, do not in general hold any rights to their work (having sold them to a record company), as the drummer from Keane discovered last week when the Conservatives began using one of their songs against his wishes. Obviously the TUC think Sony Music deserve not just protection in her majesty's civil courts but compulsory use of ISPs as enforcement agencies too.

I will give you an example of how this law will be abused in the very near future. This fictitious example is of a community website in Tottenham. It has been setup by a group of local people. It looks a lot like HarringayOnline as far as content and mission goes but it is subtle in how its content is distributed. TottenhamOnline members do not pay a fee, nor are they subject to advertising, nor do they use a web hosting company like Ning that charges them money. It would be easier if they did use Ning but they're not exactly loaded and Ning is becomming increasingly expensive. They distribute content using their user's ubiqitous Internet connections. When you click on a photo on TottenhamOnline it could be served up by DazzieRiskles connection or MaisyMouse's connection, whoever responds first and has that content (think SETI@home). All the users of TottenhamOnline have an always on broadband Internet connection, lots of space free on their harddrives and some software that lets them be an anonymous database for TottenhamOnline content. Collective use of a common resource.

This is how Sir Tim Berners-Lee envisioned things happening, distributed content would rule, I would serve documents from my office PC. This is why Al Gore made all those phone calls to ensure funding for the Internet as a physical structure (It is possible to send a large file from my house in London, to my brother's house in New Zealand for free primarily because of Al Gore).

So a few photographs get into TottenhamOnline that turn out to be owned by a publishing company. The photographs are all of Tottenham Hotspur's new ground. There is also a new Tottenham theme song MP3 floating around that is copyright. These files have generally been on, at some point because of how the redundancy works, 50% of users computers. These users are now all subject to everything from scary warning messages to "technical measures". The website is doomed but along comes Sir Richard Branson who offers to host the entire thing on his new cloud computing platform, "Bling". TottenhamOnline users are now subject to advertising and the whims of their service provider.

This was not about protection of "artists" rights, it was about simple enclosure of the commons.



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