I got the glad tidings by phone at 11am but have not had the chance to sit down and blog about it until now. I have however been busy in my constituency, counting cats and playing ‘Where’s Wally’, of which maybe more anon.
Anyway, I am now back in Birmingham, where my colleague Ruth Polling had the foresight to book a twin room, in which I am now busy
refining my speech procrastinating by blogging.
Mark Pack has helpfully outlined the process thus far, including some positive noises from the LibDem front bench.
The Federal Conference Committee did give our original motion a fair hearing but asked for it to be shortened and tidied up, to comply better with the definition of an emergency motion. That was a blessing in disguise as it enabled us to add in a request for a party policy working group on the topic, which is long overdue (as the events precipitating this debate have shown only too clearly).
So the revised text which I’ll be proposing tomorrow is as follows:
Emergency motion 1
Submitting organisation: 21 Voting Representatives
Mover: Bridget Fox
Summation: Julian Huppert
Freedom, creativity & the internet
Conference notes with concern amendment 120a to the Digital Economy Bill which facilitates website-blocking for alleged copyright infringement and which was passed on 3 March 2010.
Conference however welcomes the stand of Liberal Democrat MEPs against website-blocking and the secrecy of the international Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) negotiations, condemned by the European Data Protection Supervisor for endangering internet users’ fundamental rights.
Conference believes that this amendment to the Digital Economy Bill
a)would alter UK copyright law in a way which would permit courts to order the blocking of websites following legal action by rights-holders
b)would be open to widespread anti-competitive and civil liberties abuses, as the experience with the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act illustrates
c)could have a chilling effect on the internet, freedom of expression, competition and innovation as Internet Service Providers take down and/or block websites to avoid facing the costs of legal action
d)may be illegal under the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and other EU law
a)website-blocking and disconnecting internet connections as a response to copyright infringement
b)the threat to the freedom, dignity and well-being of individuals and businesses from the monitoring of their internet activity, the potential blocking of their websites and the potential termination of their internet connections, which could lead to the closure of internet hotspots and open wifi operated by small businesses, local councils, universities, libraries and others
c)the Digital Economy Bill for focusing on illegal filesharing rather than on nurturing creativity and innovative business models
a)the principle of net neutrality, through which all content, sites and platforms are treated equally by user access networks participating in the Internet
b)the rights of creators and performers to be rewarded for their work in a way that is fair, proportionate and appropriate to the medium
Conference therefore opposes excessive regulatory attempts to monitor, control and limit internet access or internet publication, whether at local, national, European or global level.
Conference calls on the Federal Policy Committee to commission a new policy working group to draw up a full policy paper on Information Technology and related aspects of intellectual property which should, in particular, consider:
1.Reform of copyright legislation to allow fair use and to release from copyright protection works which are no longer available legally or whose authors cannot be identified (orphan works).
2.The ‘common carrier’ concept, under which internet service providers would not be liable for material that they may carry unknowingly on their networks.
3.The creation of a level playing field between the traditional, copyright-based business model and alternative business models which may rely on personal copying and legal filesharing.
I’m delighted that we’ve still got the ‘meat’ of our motion, and that we’ve added in that policy group bit. It may not mean much to the wider world, but it ensures that the party can’t simply pass this motion and think ‘job done’.
I really should get back to my speech now, but will just pause to thank the fabulous #ldsavenet team who have got us thus far: motion drafter Obhi Chatterjee, Julian Huppert whose one minute wonder of a speech today persuaded conference to prioritise our motion, plus Mike Cooper, David Wright, David Matthewman, the LibDem Voice team, and everyone who has enthusiastically talked, texted and tweeted to get this issue debated.