Big Media (And The Unions) Back Neverending Piracy Power For Mandelson

Seventeen entertainment and other organisations are urging parliamentarians to back a controversial part of the Digital Economy Bill that would give Lord Mandelson unlimited power to strengthen digital copyright legislation.

Clause 17 would allow the business minister to alter the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988, even after it is updated by the Digital Economy Bill, to amend, repeal or revoke parts of civil internet piracy legislation by statutory instrument following consultation with unnamed agencies. New ministerial powers granted to him would “require a person to pay fees“.

This provision would let the bill “deal not only with the harm caused by current techniques for unlawful filesharing, but emerging and future threats too”, according to a string of entertainment agencies and workers’ unions who had a jointly-signed letter published in The Guardian on Saturday…

The signatories are the TUC, Entertainment Retailers Association, BVA, Cinema Exhibitors’ Association, England and Wales Cricket Board, Publishers Association, MPA, Pact, Bectu, PPL, Equity, Fact, NUJ, Premier League, Musicians Union and the BPI.

Several Lords, alarmed by the clause during their committee-stage readings, have proposed amendments that would require the minister present his case for further legal amendments before parliament, including the results of any consultation, before enacting any changes. And the unamended clause had already required that s/he win the right to tweak the laws without approval from both the Commons and the Lords.

But the amendment would also allow organisations with whom the minister has consulted to remain anonymous in the presentation of that consultation to parliament. In other words, Mandelson could change law based on soundings from movie studios that say “piracy isn’t falling”, but those studios may remain unnamed.

The letter signatories wrote: “Without the action proposed by the government in the Digital Economy Bill, job losses will be felt right across the chain. We now call on the other parties in parliament to give their full backing to the Clause 17 measures.”