Could the Digital Economy Act bring down the coalition?

In my entry “Hung, drawn and quartered“, while it was still unclear whether the coalition would be Lab-Lib or Con-Dem,  I speculated on what could bring it down – whether in weeks, months or years. It is now probable that it will last at least months, perhaps years. However, unless it allows full consultation and free votes, I still believe that the enforcement sections on the Digital Economy Act could split it along tribal fault lines. By that I do not mean that the fault lines are between the parties. They are within the coalitions that form the Conservative, Labour and LibDem parties themselves. They are nonetheless potentially lethal for a government without a big majority.  

The greatest divides is that between those who believe that Nanny (state, community, bishop or imam) knows best and those who believe in individual freedom and choice.  This is a more profound split than between those who believe in public ownership or private enterprise. Cartels and regulators who believe they know best what customers should be allowed to choose are as big a threat to “free will” as totalitarian states, whether theocratic or secular. 

The compromises embodied in the Digital Economy Act, rushed through to get difficult debate out of the world, reflect the views of “those who know best”. Just like those who gave the Volstead Act (prohibition and the rise of organised crime) to the USA.   

I very much hope that the Coalition will be happy to see the implementation of the DEA, including the Ofcom “code”, properly scrutinised by Select Committee – in at least the same detail as was the legislation to create Ofcom.

In the mean time you should respond to the Ofcom consultation – whether or not you believe such issues should be in the hands of  regulator and industry as opposed to Parliament and legislation – or among are those believe that the issues cannot be addresed without a review to bring the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. into line with current economic reality and the need to encourage and reward creativity rather than protect the past from the future.

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