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Defeat for the digital army?

Rory Cellan-Jones | 09:18 UK time, Thursday, 13 May 2010

Hope springs eternal in the breasts of the digerati. The online army which raged against the Digital Economy Bill as it was rushed through at the end of the last Parliament - it seems like another political era now - is hopeful that the hated law will be repealed by the new government.

Houses of ParliamentAfter all, the one party which opposed the bill, the Liberal Democrats, is now in government. "Surely this will be a priority," campaigners have argued on Twitter and elsewhere. "We voted for them on this issue - now they've got to act to undo this disastrous law."

I fear they are likely to be disappointed. A quick inspection of the coalition agreement published yesterday does indeed show that the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats plan a great repeal bill. But there is no mention of the Digital Economy Act in that plan to dismantle some of Labour's laws.

Given all the other big and scary tasks facing the new government, I just can't imagine that repealing a law which could see suspected illegal file-sharers temporarily suspended from the internet will be a priority.

And did the issue really play a significant part in the election?

Remember, the Liberal Democrats actually came out of the election campaign with fewer MPs. As for Stephen Timms, the Labour minister who steered the legislation through the Commons: he was severely punished at the ballot box - with a thumping majority, one of the few members of his party to see their position strengthened.

It's worth too asking a few questions about the tactics of the online activist. Much was made back in March and April of the tidal wave of e-mails directed at MPs by opponents of the bill.

A community organisation called 38 Degrees provided a helpful link on its website encouraging people to e-mail their MPs about the bill and the way it was rushed through the Commons - and claimed that more than 20,000 people had done so.

But soon afterwards it was pointed out by the online news site The Register that anyone could just click and e-mail, so some of the correspondents could be overseas or just multiple clickers.

In a somewhat surprising reply to an inquiry about this loophole, a spokeswoman for 38 Degrees told The Register: "The culpability lies with the MPs to check the veracity of contact letters."

The trouble is that MPs who do engage with the public via social networks are now receiving huge amounts of unsolicited e-mail.

A friend who helps out a Liberal Democrat MP - and advised him to use the likes of Twitter and Facebook - told me he had received over 4,000 messages in recent days offering various bits of advice on how the Lib Dems should enter a coalition.

"What are we supposed to do with this stuff?" he asked, with some frustration.

Some of those messages will have arrived via 38 Degrees, which mounted the Fair Votes campaign for proportional representation over the weekend, winning plenty of publicity and piling pressure on the Liberal Democrats and Labour to stand up for PR.

Here's a line from the 38 Degrees blog: "When the Lib Dems looked wobbly over the weekend, we sent them over 150,000 emails urging them to hold firm."

The e-mails were also directed at Labour MPs, including one Tom Watson, who was the most vigorous opponent of the Digital Economy Bill but is not apparently a supporter of PR. Here's how he reacted on Twitter to the deluge:

"Thks @38_degrees. Inbox now full. Why didn't you check to find out the MPs that supported your proposition before spamming us all?"

If even the most digital MPs are treating mass e-mail campaigns as spam, it looks to me as though this particular weapon of political protest is now virtually worthless.

On the other hand, the opponents of the Digital Economy Act should not, perhaps, be too gloomy. Just as the new government is unlikely to find time to repeal the law in a hurry, it may well be even less keen to see families cut off from the internet or websites blocked.

The new law was painted by its opponents as a great slavering beast which would eat the internet and millions of innocent surfers - perhaps it will turn out to be a toothless old mutt asleep in the corner.


  • Comment number 1.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 2.

    Surely annoying MP's is the only way to get our voices heard? Giving up a campaign just because MP's are getting frustrated at the amount of emails they get from the public doesn't say much for democracy, does it? There must come a point where they HAVE to listen: that IS the point of having MP's in the first place, isn't it? Are they our masters, or our servants?

  • Comment number 3.

    Campaigners do have to be careful with email. The problem with 38 Degrees last action was simply that they allowed anyone to email all MPs concerned at once - with the result that many MPs received huge volumes of emails that were not from constituents.

    There is very little chance that anything more than a vanishingly small number of emails sent to MPs in their first action were from non-constituents. Why bother?

    What was striking is how many people expeted replies, and were disappoitned by tardy responses.

    As for repeal or non-repeal, interfering with communications would clearly be a disproportionate punishment for nearly any offence short of harassment, and certainly cannot be sustained for a minor civil trespass, which is what copyright infringement is. I expect a lot of Lib Dems won't want to be responsible for implementing something like this, so there is everything to play for.

  • Comment number 4.

    Of course these campaign emails are spam. Surely if you've read one mass produced identikit email, you've read them all. It doesn't take long to write a personal message. It is more appreciated and more likely to make an impact. The same subject lien and message just means you can count the posts and delete them straight away.

  • Comment number 5.

    I think what needs to made clear is that repealing this law should come hand in hand with a revised white paper and bill which is more thoroughly debated and considered. That way any law passed can been seen as legitimate, even if you don't agree with it, especially now we have a more balanced house of commons.

    Although it wont be a headline grabbing priority for this new government, it will affect a huge number of people in the next five years. This should be seen as an opportunity to get a large proportion of the nation's youth vote onside.

  • Comment number 6.

    "Surely annoying MP's is the only way to get our voices heard?"

    No it is not!

    The way to actually get your voice heard is to attend their surgerys for a one on one talk with the MP. Or you can try posting a letter to then, which is less effective then meeting them face to face but tones more effective than spamming them or standing somewhere in London shouting like an idiot.

    When you meet your MP speek to them calmly and rationally to get your point accross and be polite and usually they will try to adress your concerns as long as they're not completely crazy. They are your representative in government, even if you didn't vote for them.

  • Comment number 7.

    This kind of email campaign (or its precedents: postcards/letters) had always been useless. I have worked in the commons and all it does is ruin the day of some poor underpaid intern who has to wade through the lot sort them by constituency and forward all the messages not for the mp he/she works for. Then, if any reply sent at all, it will just be a standard message too. The interns and researchers (because they are young) probably agree with this campaign anyway. If you want to actually get through write your own thoughts down or go to a contituency surgery. Better yet, get a local group together, email him, and you can go to speak to him at westminster in person. Make a bit of effort and you may find a better response.

  • Comment number 8.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 9.

    email campaigns mean that email from constituents will be missed and MPs will generally ignore their inbox. Try snail mail as an MP is now more likely to read a hard written letter than read email or something that looks mass produced.

    Regarding this bill - I expect some provisions will be ignored for now.

  • Comment number 10.

    I'm all for the bill and glad it won't be repealled.
    About time the freeloaders who help themselves to music movies and games the law abiding majority pay for get their comeuppance.
    I hope the new law is rapidly and harshly enforced.

  • Comment number 11.

    The problem is that the masses (still) don't understand technology - hence Timms wasn't punished for his bill. Many have probably never even heard of the DEB. We geeks are very much in the minority, yet we have to stand up to defend the rights of all citizens, even if they're unaware of them.

    In the end, the act might not make a difference - it's possible that it'll never be enforced as it'll never stand up to scrutiny in a court of law.

  • Comment number 12.

    Just a thought - if you are illegally downloading films, music or literature that you do not own the copyright to - Isn't it called Copyright Infringement? I'm pretty sure we already have laws to deal with that..

  • Comment number 13.

    "They are your representative in government, even if you didn't vote for them." - Oll.

    Nice idea - but in my experience - even if a large number of voters petition an MP, they still vote the way they want. Once they are in, they forget totally about the people who put them there and tend (in my experience) to represent their own interests, those of their party or close friends.

    Look at the money wasted by NuLabour on SATs and Academies, for instance. Experts repeatedly say they don't work (because they distort the truth) but since they buy votes, MPs run with them.

    Even PR won't sort this out.

  • Comment number 14.

    Writing an email takes a few seconds - and hence means nothing. If you really want to make a difference, and really care about an issue, write a letter to your MP. If they receive 10,000 letters about an issue, they will sit up and notice!

  • Comment number 15.

    "Surely annoying MP's is the only way to get our voices heard?"

    If it was me and a group was being deliberately annoying I might hear them but I wouldn't be that sympathetic. The opposite in fact. Besides which why an earth would you want to deploy a strategy which spectacularly failed?

    Instead you might want to look at something that actually worked. The photographers' Stop43 campaign, that successfully lobbied against section 43 of the bill, for example.

  • Comment number 16.

    I used 38 Degrees about fair votes and what you get are a lot of auto-reply e-mails saying that Parliamentary protocol means the MP will only answer e-mails from constituents which means you have to give your name and address in the constituency.

    So if you want to be heard you can only e-mail your local MP or better still we have to go back to using Snail Mail. They find it harder to escape letters.

  • Comment number 17.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 18.

    I am worried that this bill could affect my perfectly legal sharing of open-source material. Therefore I would like to see the law repealed or amended (I can accept that people have the right to protect their IP if they so choose!).

    I think that our best approach is to keep nagging away with a well argued case rather than trying to blitz them with large volumes of emails that will probably go unread.

  • Comment number 19.

    My son sent a letter to our LibDem MP, and in reply got sent a very detailed letter back, with some handwritten notes by the said MP at the bottom.
    Some of our representatives are listening about this bill, and doing their utmost to help.

    E-mails are often just sent the standard reply, so I agree that if you want your views to be heard, send a letter; seems to have worked for us.

  • Comment number 20.

    "Nice idea - but in my experience - even if a large number of voters petition an MP, they still vote the way they want" -marcdraco

    Have you tried turning up to see your MP in large numbers at his/her surgery? Once they see that it is a big enough concern among their voters to actually arrange appointments to talk to him/her about it then usually they'll vote on the side it looks like their breed is buttered. If nothing else it will mean that the MP has to look into the issue and read up on it in order to be able to answer your questions rather than just send out a copypasta response drafted by one of the whips.

    Most (not all, admittedly) of people's current feelings of disconnection from their MPs comes from not following the proper channels to get their voices heard. For example when there is a big protest on the streets how's an MP supposed to know that you're one of his constituents and that it's his actions that will influence your vote and possibly your friends and families votes too? Even a large protest can be organised by a relatively small but well organised group of blow-hards and is never certain that it represents the views of the general public at large. Another problem with protests is that by defying them most MPs and governments look stronger. Protests and often mass email and postal petitions almost never work on MPs and governments, you have to write a personal letter or talk to the MP politely in person to show you really care about an issue and are not just jumping on the latest bandwagon.

  • Comment number 21.

    I sent my MP an e-mail regarding this issue. This was not one of these standard template e-mails but a genuine message. In reply I received a basic postcard that simply thanked me for my communication, via snail mail. Whether or not the e-mail was actually read, I do not know, but here's hoping.

  • Comment number 22.

    I'd like to see a second digital bill that deals, strongly, with penalties for email spam.

  • Comment number 23.

    "Surely annoying MP's is the only way to get our voices heard?"

    I'm not an MP but if you tried annoying me you'd probably succeed. An annoyed Peter would do everything he could to make sure you DIDN'T get what you wanted.

    I've written to one MP in my life (Gordon Brown when he was chancellor) to complain that the RNLI were having to pay VAT on the fuel they used in their lifeboats for rescues (which added up to millions of pounds a year in charity money paying tax not saving life). I was polite and explained why this was an absolute outrage and suggested how he could change things. I got a polite, if obviously form reply and within a month Gordon had given the RNLI a tax break. I obviously wasn't the only one to write to him but it got the job done. Its also one reason why I quite liked Gordon. He DID respond to what people wanted sometimes.

    I can't see exactly what the major problem is with this law because the 'suspected file sharers' is a weasel word. Proving what was downloaded by what IP address is very easy and would be 'beyond reasonable doubt' in a criminal court. Having your internet cut off is a pretty minor punishment compared to what a criminal court can hand out for copyright infringment. The punishment for that is absolutely draconian. I suspect many of the people opposed to the law actually support the virtual abolition of all copyright laws and expect to be allowed to file share with impunity.

  • Comment number 24.

    Look you can talk about this all you want, but it's not a matter of politics, or numbers of votes or democracy, it's a case of those that understand the ways of the Internet and those that don't. You can't hold back the tide no matter how many votes you got. Eventually you'll just have to accept the old concept of copyright DOES NOT APPLY to the new world of technology. Why on earth do you think large multinational corporations are 'giving away' 'billions of dollars worth' of software by making it open source? I'm not sure the Internet would even exist if it wasn't for the concept of giving stuff away free. For example noone gets royalties for all the work that went into creating Internet protocols, the standards that define them are given away free. Most the software servers on the Internet use was given away free.

  • Comment number 25.

    "Given all the other big and scary tasks facing the new government, I just can't imagine that repealing a law which could see suspected illegal file-sharers temporarily suspended from the internet will be a priority."

    The last Government considered the issue to be a sufficient priority to pass such a law...

    This same argument could be made against all the civil liberty issues that they plan to abolish, so evidently the new coalition disagrees with the logic. I didn't realise the details of the repeal bill had yet been finalised?

    "Remember, the Liberal Democrats actually came out of the election campaign with fewer MPs."

    Remember, the Lib Dems got more votes. But voting share is a poor way of knowing what people think on a single issue anyway, since we only have a single vote, and have to pick a "least worse"; furthermore, you have all the issues of tactical voting and wasted votes.

    There was also the point that many Digital Economy critics were disappointed with the Lib Dems - whilst they were notionally against it, very few turned up to vote against it (not to mention the censorship proposal from a Lib Dem Lord). I see no reason why the Lib Dems could have been expected to gain over this issue.

    Regarding the complaint about mail spam - what about all the bad laws that have been passed in response to some petition (including those which the BBC have publicised - e.g., Liz Longhurst's)? The Government seems happy to welcome petitions when they support its position - but I see, when they're in disagreement, they're "spam" and should be ignored...

  • Comment number 26.

    The above post (#23 by Peter_Syn) highlights rather well why this legislation should have been more thoroughly consulted on and debated. It show the amount of misinformation the public have been given about this Act and the technologies and laws involved.

    In terms of "proving" things, in a court it would have to be proved (on the balance of probabilities) that an *individual* copied data, that was copyrighted, without an appropriate licence. This is nowhere near proving "what was downloaded by what IP address" (something which is also rather complicated due to various IP-spoofing techniques - if it wasn't the various threats made by certain law firms recently would have been carried out). Secondly, copyright infringement is not itself a criminal offence (or an offence - it is an infringement - the clue is in the name). Under current copyright law (the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 as amended), it is necessary for a copyright owner to not only prove the infringing act has occurred, but also any damages. Unlike the US, there is no statutory minimum and so if one were "found guilty" of downloading a music track, the most they would be expected to pay would be 75p (if not significantly less). It is no surprise, therefore, that copyright owners have been reluctant to pursue legal action so far.

    It is therefore no wonder that the pro-punishment lobby has been moving for technical measures - these are viewed by many in "the establishment" as very minor punishments, but a serious punishment by those likely to be targeted by it (i.e. young people who rely on their Internet for many aspects of their lives). As this punishment does not affect all people the same way, it is clearly unbalanced - and the suggestion that it is minor is merely an excuse for the lack of judicial process involved.

    Personally, I have been following this business since the Gowers Review in 2006 (most of whose recommendations have been ignored or actively opposed by the former government) and did write a personalised (and rather long) letter to my MP (who only replied after the Act was passed). I am now working on the proposals for the final Code (with Ofcom) in the hopes that reason can be returned to this debate (rather than emphasis on made up figures and statistics and wild claims of the impending doom of industries). I am opposed to much of what is in the Digital Economy Act but am not calling for the abolition of copyright, merely the return of it to what it was originally intended to achieve - that of encouraging the creation of works of art - not the protection of outdated business models.

    I am proud to be a Pirate - not pirate with a little p (someone who infringes copyright or raids ships off the coast of east Africa), but Pirate with a big P - part of a growing global movement calling for copyright reform, individual privacy and freedom of speech and communication.

  • Comment number 27.

    so MPs are not listening to people with valid concerns.
    does that mean they are useless and not doing there job?

    We really need to watch out for this because if they are just carrying on ignoring the public it will push people away from our democracy.(if we even have democracy at all)

    there is a fine line between apathy and dissent. a huge amount of young voters are coming to the conclusion that a government that doesn't listen and can't be reached is an enemy. this bill is ammo to that mind set.

  • Comment number 28.


    If the same number of people who emailed their MP instead attended their surgeries, I suspect that the MP would get equally annoyed. It's not the method, but the numbers. Any number over a mere handful forces the MP to do something about it, whether they are personally annoyed by it or not. Which was my point.

  • Comment number 29.

    #24 "Eventually you'll just have to accept the old concept of copyright DOES NOT APPLY to the new world of technology."

    I wouldn't recommend you use that as a defence in court. You'll lose badly. Legally copyright laws are harsher regarding the internet. Its perfectly legal to copy a CD to magnetic tape for your own personal use but illegal to copy a CD to an MP3 for your own personal use. You may feel this is stupid & illogical (I do too) but its also the law. Fortunately its not one thats enforced. Simply saying it doesn't apply (with or without the Caps lock on) doesn't actually make it not apply.

    The internet exists and is so successful because it gives just the right amount of stuff away free that the system itself is widely used and allows huge commercial companies to make an absolute fortune using it to sell you stuff either direct or by advertising. If you allow people to pirate what they want with no commercial revenue from that product at all then the internet will kill itself.

  • Comment number 30.

    #29 - again, we find popular misconceptions:
    "Its perfectly legal to copy a CD to magnetic tape for your own personal use but illegal to copy a CD to an MP3 for your own personal use"
    I am not a lawyer (merely a law student specialising in Copyright Law, both nationally and internationally) but I am fairly certain both of these statements are wrong.

    It is unlawful (but not illegal - a technical difference) to make a copy of any work under copyright without a suitable licence (unless it is covered by the few, and very specific exceptions in Part III of the CDPA). Of course, it would be interesting to see how a defence under Section 29 would hold up in Court. Obviously if you have a citation (either in statutory or case law) that is contrary to this, I will happily investigate.

    Copyright as a concept is broken and does not apply to a world where content can be separated from a physical medium. The *law* as written still applies (or would if ever actually used) but it is the *concept* that fails. This is why we need a thorough review (as promised by all major and several minor parties in the run up to the election).

  • Comment number 31.

    29, 30

    You are of course both half right.

    The problem is that copyright is easy to enforce in some spheres, difficult in others, impossible in many cases.

    The distinction also needs to be made between the creators of a copyright work who agree to it being used or shared, those who reluctantly turn a blind eye and those who want to defend their legal rights. It's a continuum rather than a blanket yes/no decision box, and tests of reasonableness and harm need to be applied. And copying something you have already paid for is different in law from stealing something...


    The concept as well as the law of copyright does still apply, whether you like it or not, and asserting otherwise doesn't make it so. Enforcability is a different issue. And if you owned a valuable item that was stolen by someone, I suspect you might take a different view...

    International copyright law is almost certainly going to have to be reviewed and amended to recognise the reality of the internet and other new technologies. But this will take time, and in the meantime we're going to have to live with the current messy position. But the free-for-all you imply, whereby anyone can steal and disseminate an artist's work with impunity, cannot just be allowed to develop by default.

  • Comment number 32.

    People try to apply the concept, but it is very hard to do so because it is broken. If I have a song (an mp3 file, say) what is exactly copyrighted? The data? But that is just a number when you get down to it - and is hardly an unique representation of that song, nor is it unique to that song either. Therefore we have to assume that some platonic "essence of the song" must be what is actually copyrighted - and once you start talking about the cost of an idea, or restrictions on ideas, you get rather close to thought crimes. The 1500+ year-old concept of copyright was never properly thought through in the first place and the Statute of Anne 1710 is clearly just a "quick fix" and avoided looking at the philosophy and metaphysics of information and ideas. Obviously this wasn't a problem back in 1710 because, as mentioned above, it was effectively impossible to separate an idea from a physical object.

    However, in my opinion, you have lost nearly all your credibility as soon as you used the word "stolen". If you are still under the delusion that copyright infringement is in any way theft, I do wonder if there is any point debating further - at least until you have worked your way around that. Copyright is not, nor has ever been about theft or property. Information cannot be property (see Oxford vs Moss (1979) 68 Cr App Rep 183). There's also no point in mentioning artists - the Digital Economy Act certainly doesn't...

    Interestingly, though, we are not living "with the current messy position", the copyright barons are making the situation worse all the time with legislation like the Digital Economy Act, the ACTA, the new copyright regulations going through Europe and so on. It has been nearly 20 years since the invention of the world wide web, and half a century since the creation of the Internet - there has been plenty of time for reviewing law and this hasn't happened because there is no incentive for those in power to do so - this is why people, such as those mentioned in the original post and myself are having to work hard ourselves to change this.

    Incidentally, it is not the "radical Pirates" that are trying to chance consumer and public practices but some of the copyright owners - they are trying to make people pay for content (intangible concepts as discussed above) rather than the distribution method and this is where many of their problems lie. They also assume that people pirate because it is free, even though nearly all the academic literature (not to mention numerous real-world examples) suggest otherwise. Those companies that have realised these and adapted accordingly are thriving (as is the UK recorded music industry as a whole, according to the BPI). It has been piracy that has driven the innovative models, not the lawsuits and new legislation.

  • Comment number 33.


    I take it that you've never created anything and had someone use it in way you don't want, without your permission, to make money?

    As I said, this is a continuum and there is no "correct" response to the way new technology has changed things. Downloading a few tracks or copying a CD for personal use is not the same thing as widespread commercial piracy, and there are a million steps in between.

    Most people agree that we have to explore new ways of looking at this, to accept reality that copyright as previously conceived is in many circumstances now effectively unenforcable, while doing the best we can to protect the creative process. Why spend time and energy working on something creative if it gets taken away from you as soon as you show it to anyone?

    It's not going to be easy, and blaming "the man" for everything is selfish, naive and simplistic. I have no brief for the big media and music companies. Of course their greed in making us pay again (and again) for things we have already bought is disgusting. But for every capitalist record or other media company trying to protect the cash cow they did nothing creative to generate, there are thousands of individuals whose work is being sold without them receiving any of the benefit, or in ways they don't want.

    And to suggest [or at least imply, I'm not sure which it is here...] that anyone who doesn't want their creative work sold on, altered, misinterpreted, exploited (without them having some say in this and getting fair reward for their effort and ideas) is in some way the one in the wrong - "thought crimes", ffs! - is just arrogant and greedy.

    You have not thought this through, I'm afraid.

  • Comment number 34.

    I have created things, I'm also a musician (been involved in more performances than I can count, been on stage in the West End and performed on the Southbank - all without ever asking for a fee, incidentally - I play and create because I love doing it, but anyway) and personally, I would like my work to be spread around the world and appreciated by as many as possible.

    When did "making money" come into this? The measures in the Digital Economy Act aren't there to prevent anyone making money - they are aimed at helping a few companies (and their lawyers) make more money. Once copyright infringement goes commercial (i.e. money changes hands) then it does become a criminal offence, and the police can get involved, and they do. However, "online file-sharing" isn't about money. It never has been. I am all against commercial piracy or counterfeiting (especially when it is done by large record labels etc. and yes, there are plenty of cases of this happening, including some police raids on properties owned by major record labels). However, the biggest damage to the counterfeit DVD and CD "business" has come not from international taskforces or police work, but from the online file-sharing. Cracking down on this will only drive people back to the counterfeiters - and this is what the Digital Economy Act will try to do.

    "Why spend time and energy working on something creative if it gets taken away from you as soon as you show it to anyone?" - Isn't that what art used to be about - ars gratia artis? [Also, we're not talking about taking, but copying, which is a significant difference.] I thought art was about expressing yourself and having others appreciate and experience your work?

    Also, I am not blaming "the man", I am criticising (as you are) a few select companies and organisations with a record for bad decisions, actively opposing innovation, lying, making up statistics and blaming "the people" for all their woes (and yes, I can back up all of those with cases). The Digital Economy Act (and the copyright laws you seem to be defending) was not designed to support the thousands of individuals, but those few companies. The DEA will not help the small artist in any way - as originally drafted, it actually took away what little protection they had left.

    I'm not sure whether it is worth replying to your penultimate paragraph - I would hope you might reconsider and reword it after realising that no one is talking about selling anything here (although, amusingly, I've seen that argument used against copyright as well - just look at the trouble the remaining Beatles have had getting their music available online). What I was calling close to a "thought crime" was the fact that I can't legally sing the song "Happy Birthday" in public (or listen to music at work) without being liable. Nor can I copy a CD or DVD I own onto my computer. Nor can I watch a DVD on my computer without using illegal software. It isn't the "commercial" side to copyright that most people are complaining about, but the non-commercial side - the side that has appeared in the last 20 years without being properly thought through or debated.

    And yes, I have thought this through. I've been a proponent of copyright reform for some time now, been to conferences etc. (even had dinner with a senior figure at the BPI) and I've yet to see a convincing and factually accurate argument for the Digital Economy Act, ACTA or even the provisions in the CDPA 1988. On the other hand, I'd be perfectly happy with a modernised version of the Statute of Anne.

  • Comment number 35.

    Yes, Stephen Timms may have kept his seat, but his party is no longer in power. Conversely, the Lib Dems, the only pary that pledged to repeal the Digital Economy Bill is part of a coalition government and will therefore have a real say in how the Digital Economy Act progresses.

    Given that "the right to be tried by a jury" is a key part of the coalition manifesto, the disconnection aspect of the Bill will certainly have to be looked again. Plus, it will be Liberal-minded Vince Cable deciding the length of Internet suspensions, etc, not Dark Lord Peter Mandelson.

    If that's a defeat, what on earth would a victory look like? My belief is that this issue cost Labour the election. Come on, BBC, I know you lobbied the last government, encouraging them to rush the Bill through at the tail end of parliament, but do you have to make your bias so obvious? You're meant to be impartial.

  • Comment number 36.

    One thing's for sure; the only reason this went through is that MPs (and the general public) don't have a clue. This will, of course, suddenly change once the first wave of "non-threatening" warning letters are sent out. It's bound to catch all sorts of unintended victims, and it'll suddenly be all over the news that little old grannies have been sent these letters.

    Shortly after, we'll see the scam versions of these letters. Either exact clones of the original letter (all will appear the same...) or perhaps from people attempting to extort money ("please send money to this address") These letters will inevitably make their way to MPs, and that'll be the end of the "digital economy bill".

    Technical measures could work, however, will be very limited in their effect. Why? Wireless broadband.

  • Comment number 37.


    A lot of art takes a substantial upfront capital investment to get it off the ground. From a film industry perspective, most of the movies that the public loves to watch just wouldn't be viable without a prosperous industry behind it, enabling the largescale mechanical processes that go into a production.

    If the DEA can help protect this system and protect reinvestment in future productions, ensuring that we can all enjoy watching them, then I think it should be supported.


    Ollie from the Industry Trust

  • Comment number 38.


    You make some interesting points: as a small publisher, and artist, I create content. I aim to make a living from this (which, in theory, should enable me to spend more time doing it, rather than relegating it to a spare time activity). There seems to be 2 sides to piracy: one where the pirate makes money, and one where he does not. If a pirate creates a copy of my work which he then proceeds to sell, he is effectively stealing my income. But if he makes a copy which he proceeds to freely distribute via file-sharing, you seem to be saying that he is not stealing my income. Well, maybe he personally isn't benefiting at my expense, but surely he is preventing me from earning my income, as why should people purchase my work from me, when they can get it from him for free?

    How, for example, is it fair, if I write a book, and through file-sharing, everyone on the planet has a copy, and yet I remain broke?

    Your point of it being the method of distribution (i.e. a physical book) that is what is paid for, is an interesting one: I can see that many people would prefer to own a physical copy of the content, and that a digital copy freely distributed may even help sales of the physical book. But what about other artistic works, such as music, that don't rely on a physical form? And, as Ollie pointed out, film? Are you suggesting that it is only fancy packaging that will determine whether people buy it, as opposed to the actual content which they may be able to get for free by download?

    Art created just for the love of it is a lovely idea, but in the real world people still have to eat. If films like Avatar and Lord of the Rings had been created solely in people's spare time, whilst they earned their daily bread by other means, then we'd be looking at films taking 20 or 30 years to get made. Expanding that to other works, we'd be looking at a vast reduction of creative output, which would be disastrous for us culturally.

    It's clear that the copyright laws need to be revised, and that it would perhaps be preferable to have differing laws for each type of artistic work, rather than a blanket law. But the overall idea, that a creator should be adequately financially compensated for their creation, rather than simply releasing it and letting others distribute it for free, is sound.

  • Comment number 39.

    @Ollie (#37) - I'm sorry, but I find it hard to take you seriously when your website claiming to be "Copyright Aware" talks about copyright theft. It isn't theft. Seriously. It also seems to confuse counterfeiting and copyright infringement which are subtly different issues. There are also some rather amusing "facts".

    For the record, there are several examples of (critically and financially) successful TV shows/Films produced on very small budgets and released for very low prices (or even for free in the case of Dr Horrible's Sing-a-long Blog). It is possible to create good art without a massive upfront investment however, these seem to still be special cases. But this is what copyright was originally designed for - it noted that art required an upfront investment but once created, instantly becomes "worthless" in the sense that it takes no more effort for anyone to experience it. Thus copyright grants the artist (originally, now the copyright owner) a short-term monopoly in which to recoup these expenses. However, when you look at films like Avatar or the LotR trilogy, which have made back over 10 times their budgets despite "rampant piracy", it becomes clear that something isn't quite right any more.

    The idea that the DEA will somehow "protect" copyright is rather ludicrous. All it will do is make it easier for a few large companies to punish and threaten their consumers. I wonder if part of the reason some of these companies are having trouble attracting investors is that they've spent so much of the last decade (or century, in some cases) whining about how piracy is killing them (despite increases in revenue and all that) that they have scared off the investors.

    @Graphis (#38)

    You cannot lose something you don't have, and it certainly can't be stolen. There are actually three types of "piracy". The first is counterfeiting (where you sell an unlicensed copy of something) - this is a crime and I don't think many people would argue against it being one. It is also not covered by the DEA. I won't discuss this, and when I talk about piracy I am not referring to this.

    The second is where people copy a file (without paying) instead of paying for it legally.
    The third is where people copy a file (without paying) which they would or could *not* have paid for, legally - possibly due to already owning it in some other format (e.g. downloading a film that one owns on DVD, or a TV show that is on iPlayer etc.) - or who then, due to downloading, go out and buy a legal copy.

    The evidence suggests that this third type is much more common than the second. Yes, there are some people that download because it is free, but they are a vast minority. Most of the academic literature on this (backed up by real-world examples) suggest that "price" is not a significant factor in causing piracy (compared with things like convenience - something that shouldn't surprise anyone in marketing). In general, people don't download "because it is free" and there is plenty of evidence to suggest that those who pirate actually spend far more on legal services than those don't.

    If you wrote a novel (deliberately distinguished from a physical book) and if everyone in the planet had a copy, I would think it unlikely that you remained broke for long - and if I had a piece of work read by everyone, I'd feel pretty pleased.

    I think you slightly missed the point about the distribution thing (probably my fault). Until about 10 years ago, people did not pay for content. Whether it was a film, song, story or poem, people did not pay for the platonic concept/idea. People paid for the distribution method or product - either the book, the CD/DVD, the cinema experience, or the live performance. It was not widely possible (as it is today) to separate the content from the product. This is partly why there has been a huge increase in high-profile, non-commercial copyright infringement (which has always happened, but never this visibly or effortlessly) in the last couple of decades. If you look at the CDPA 1988, there is effectively no mention of non-commercial copyright infringement for the simple reason that it didn't really exist in the public conscious.

    And yes, I do think people will pay for something they can get for free, especially if you put it in fancier packaging. Bottled water is one example. The London Underground is another (people take the underground when they could walk or cycle for free). People pay not for content, but for convenience - unfortunately for the copyright industry, the unlicensed downloading option is almost always more convenient than the licensed option as well as being cheaper. There are plenty of cases where something has been made available for free (legally) and people have a) paid for it and b) pirated it. Money is not the issue. This is why the industry is more interested in making the unlicensed option less convenient (by disconnected people, or adding DRM) although they may be better off trying to make the legal options more convenient.

    Let's take Avatar as an example. If I wanted to watch Avatar legally, I would have to find somewhere to buy the DVD, either go out to a shop or order it online (taking a few days for delivery). I would then have to get a DVD player (I can't play it legally on my computer as most DVD-playing software, particularly the F/OSS stuff is technically illegal due to the DRM on DVDs), watch through all the copyright notices, adverts, menus etc. and then I would be able to watch the film. OR, I could open up a new browser tab, find an unlicensed version available to download (took about 10 seconds using Google) and download it (which claims it will take less than an hour - that's HD - also I'm claiming copyright exception under Section 29; nor do I have any intention of completing the download or watching the film) and then I can watch it however I like, with no copyright warnings or adverts, with subtitles, being able to skip easily to different scenes, being able to store it on a hard drive (potentially alongside thousands of other films - in a few cubic centimetres). As you can see, the unlawful option is vastly more convenient than the lawful one - and those groups that have been able to close this gap have seen great success (such as iTunes, Hulu, Steam).

    [Download stopped at 10% with 40 minutes left - all files deleted.]

    As for your penultimate paragraph, I would suggest you have a look at the film "The Hunt for Gollum" - available free and (from what I've heard), quite good. I also think it may be slightly naive to suggest that weaker copyright will lead to the end of the film-making process as we know it - after all, Holywood is where it is because the early film-makers wanted to escape from the copyright laws of the East Coast of the US. It is also worth comparing the the possible negative cultural impacts of weakening copyright with the positive impacts of having a huge wealth of material available to the public (much of which is locked away behind copyright).


    But all of this is a giant digression from the subject of the DEA. Even if you think we need strong copyright laws, that still isn't enough to justify the measures in the Act that a) are unlikely to stop any significant infringement and b) won't save EMI or MGM (among others) from their bad business decisions even if it does somehow lead to a 70% reduction in unlicensed file-sharing. Is it really worth killing off any hope for free/open wireless, forcing censorship into libraries, schools and universities, potentially punishing millions without trial, forcing 40,000 households to abandon their Internet connections (from the Government's own estimates of the costs and effects of just the letter-writing stage) and so on, all on the off-chance that a few rich companies might make a bit more money?

    To any artist that thinks the DEA is a good idea, I challenge to answer this: Is your copyright really important enough that you are willing to "protect" it by discouraging people from appreciating your art (and threatening and punishing those who do)? Is copyright more important than art?

    [I apologise for the length of this post - but I hope it demonstrates that I really have thought about this - and can answer all the points made "against" the anti-DEA "ideology". If only those in favour of it would be willing to answer all the criticisms in such a manner.]

  • Comment number 40.


    I don't think I can refute your points: very well put, and they certainly make sense. In theory. But in the real world they still don't resolve the fundamental problem: how do I make a living from my art, if, as soon as I offer it for sale, people choose to obtain it for free rather than pay for it? Let's take the novel as an example: I spend years writing a novel, it's accepted for publication, and appears as a physical book. It only takes one person to scan the book, convert it to a PDF and place a torrent of it on a file-sharing website, for it to become freely, instantly (and more conveniently) available to millions more than it would otherwise be. Great for getting my name known, but not so great for my bank balance.

    You seem to be suggesting that it's the business models of the entire business world that needs to change, rather than a piece of legislation: and given your argument that people prefer convenience, surely changing the legislation is more convenient than getting rid of bookshops, putting booksellers, publishers, graphic designers, printers, distributors, van drivers, Saturday staff etc out of work?

    I agree the DEA isn't perfect, but if you're advocating getting rid of it, you really need to come up with a better business model that makes the DEA redundant, rather than the millions of people trying to earn a living. Otherwise, the only people who have the time and money to create anything will be the large companies who have already made billions, and the days of the creative SME's are gone forever. Which would ultimately lead to LESS material available to the public than otherwise.

  • Comment number 41.

    Let's make one thing clear; the DEA isn't in effect yet and the various creative sectors (taken as a whole) are flourishing.

    I think your suggestion that when technology advances the right thing to do is to legislate so companies can maintain their old models is a rather unhelpful one. That was the same logic behind the Locomotive Act 1865 (or the Red Flag Act) - this made it a requirement that any car ("self-propelled vehicle") have a man walking 60 yards in front with a red flag and that the vehicle was restricted to 4mph. As with the DEA, one (fairly nonsensical) reason was given for this need - that cars were new and dangerous when, in reality, the real reason for it was that several senior government figures had interests in and connections to the railway industries and were afraid that they would lose out. It took 30 years for this law to be repealed and now, over 100 years later, the train companies are still with us.

    More recently, there was an attempt to make it illegal to have a cassette player with two tape-decks in the 70s (iirc), and even to ban any video cassette because the "dangerous new technology" was "killing the ... industry". Fortunately, in this case, reason prevailed and, unsurprisingly, the music and film companies survived.

    There is now more music and film being produced than ever before. The BPI announced an increase in revenue for the last year (despite the recession and overall decrease in revenue nationally). The MPA announced record box office sales for the nth year in a row. I am not suggesting that the entire business world needs to change; just those few companies that have already changed to suing their consumers or lobbying for more draconian laws rather than adapting to new technologies. Many companies have already done this and are doing well. People are willing to pay for something they can get for free and have always been.

    I think your list of all these various people who will be "put out of work" if we don't have a DEA is the same sort of laughable logic BASCAP used in their recent report (although they went further and included photocopier manufacturers and train drivers). This isn't happening. Piracy is not having (nor has ever had) a significant impact on the "creative industry" (I use the phrase reluctantly) nor on the "publishing industry". Within the last few days a major video game publisher admitted that the second-hand market is far more "damaging" to them than piracy - and a senior figure in the US songwriters' guild recently noted that the record labels were their "greatest enemy".

    As for the suggestion that without the DEA only large companies will be able to produce content - the opposite is the case; there is a huge rise in independent music, game and film at the moment - driven partly by the openness and freedom of the Internet; something the DEA threatens.

    A key idea with the DEA is proportionality. What the DEA does [in general, when talking about the DEA I am referring to sections 4-18 - the rest of the Act is, on the whole, quite good) is make things easier and cheaper for the big companies. There already is a process copyright owners can use to seek damages against copyright infringement in UK law (under Section 96 of the CDPA) - what the DEA does is make this process cheaper by a) potentially lowering the standard of evidence, b) skipping that pesky and expensive court business and c) pushing some of the costs onto ISPs. If you think that these changes are worth abolishing open wireless Internet, forcing censorship onto all public computers, forcing liability onto Internet subscribers for any actions taken through their subscription, making ISPs liable in some ways and contravening European Law (not to mention the European Charter for Fundamental Rights), then I guess that it your choice.

    [Just to emphasise again if I have not made it clear already - I do not want to abolish copyright. While I don't think it is a great idea, I accept that it is required in our current society. What I think it needs is to be reduced in duration, weakened (so including fair use etc.) and made a lot clearer for the public.]

  • Comment number 42.

    No, you misunderstood: I wasn't suggesting that people would be thrown out of work if we didn't have the DEA: I was suggesting that people would be thrown out of work if bookshops (or online retailers) ceased to exist, due to people preferring to download books for free rather than pay for them.

    And your assertion that there has been a "huge rise in independent music, game and film at the moment" may be so, but I don't see many people making a proper living at it: it's all kids on MySpace hoping to get picked up by the major labels etc. Even many established artists are discovering that they can no longer make money from sales of their music, but only from performing live. I'm not suggesting that human creativity will be killed off entirely, just that the established business model, however outdated, at least allows creative people to do what they love and earn a living from it, rather than it being an evening or weekend hobby while they earn their real money from other work.

    And it's just plain wrong to say piracy doesn't have an impact: while it may not make serious dents in the incomes of a Jackson or McCartney, it's the lesser mortals who suffer most. I personally know several people who have had their creative work pirated, and who would have benefited greatly from the difference just a thousand extra sales would have made.

    I couldn't give a stuff about the DEA: I agree it's deeply flawed, and I'm not defending it at all. What I am defending is the notion that a creative person can earn a living from their creativity, which in the model you are proposing seems a lot less feasible. And in the absence of a viable alternative to the "old" business model, then many people will continue to support it. Until you, or someone, can come up with a new business model that allows creative people to benefit from their work in a "real" sense (i.e. it puts food in their bellies and a roof over their heads, rather than just an award or two), as well as caters to the wishes of the modern consumer, then you can expect some form of copyright legislation, in whatever form, to be around for a very long time.

  • Comment number 43.

    I think I can address some of the issues you are bringing up. Firstly, your description of the public indicates you see them only as consumers as opposed to fans, and as you are someone who creates something, you are aware of the concept of having fans. Fans are different from consumers in that they will gladly pay money for things that they have enjoyed, as opposed to consumers that will take the most convenient option. Look up Cory Doctorow (a writer) to see how someone can benefit from giving his work away for nothing.

    "I personally know several people who have had their creative work pirated, and who would have benefited greatly from the difference just a thousand extra sales would have made."
    This might be a misleading argument, as it is only assumed that one download is equal to one lost sale. Personally, I have downloaded plenty of material, the majority of which I go on to purchase legally. This is because I have the ability (as do most people) to understand that the people who make it should be paid if I wish to see them continue making things. If you can challenge this assumption then you be nearer to understanding how you can make the most of free distribution. In my case, the prevalence of online distribution has greatly increased the amount of money I spend due to the fact that it makes more artists work available to me.

    Thirdly, as someone who keeps referring to the real world, you should also understand that there is no reason why you should be able to make a living doing what you do. I make and play music in my spare time and consider myself lucky to have that opportunity.

  • Comment number 44.

    Hi Chris,

    Consumers are those members of the public with the potential to be fans: they cannot be fans until they have seen (and liked) your work).

    I am indeed familiar with Cory Doctorow: his ideas are of course interesting, however I do note that he a) works as a journalist, b) held several academic chairs, c) does frequent public speaking, and d) sold a software company he founded. I'm assuming that he didn't/doesn't do all this for nothing? Which of course means he's in a very luxurious position of being able to give away his own 'spare time' work for very little or no cost.

    But it's a totally different position for a first-time author, or struggling artist or musician, or just-graduated fashion designer whose daddy isn't a famous rockstar.

    I personally believe that creativity is the single greatest gift we as humans have: so why should it be relegated to a part-time activity? I believe that creative people have a right to earn a living from their work, thus enabling them, by freeing them from other jobs, to create more.

    I'm not arguing here: I'm obviously interested in the whole copyright/DEA/creative commons/piracy debate, but my overall concern is how an artist can put food in their mouth if their work is stolen/pirated/distributed for free. I'm still struggling to see an effective new business model. All suggestions welcome:)

  • Comment number 45.

    I brought up the fan/consumer point because it shows the potential business model you are looking for. A fan will pay money for what you make even if you give it away for free. And consumers can be converted to fans by exposure to your material, which is made easier by the internet based distribution model.

    Basically this:
    Here is my work available for free. If you like it, please consider making a donation.

    It might sound like a bad idea before you try it, but independent games developers/musicians etc. have made money this way. You will achieve more sales if you treat consumers as potential fans as opposed to potential thieves. It is not so widespread right now as big business still dominates content creation and distribution.

    Your point about first time authors and people just starting out is taken, but these people will always have to struggle to get a foothold of both their fan base and their own abilities. The difference is that before, the prospects of these new creators are in the hands of publishers/record companies, but the possibilities of new distribution cut out the middle man and allow fans to directly support their favorite artists.

    I agree that creativity should not be a part time hobby, I just meant that you should take whatever you can get from it. If an artist can't support themselves with what they create, content distribution will only be one of the factors that prevent this. The most important one is whether you can connect with your audience.

  • Comment number 46.

    Personally, I don't disagree with you, but I can see many, many people who work for say, bookshops, publishers, record labels, and other "middlemen", getting very upset at your new business model:)

    It's all very well fans supporting say, a new band, but would donations from fans be enough to pay for a record producer, sound engineer, and 6 weeks in a recording studio? I wonder....

  • Comment number 47.

    46. Graphis.

    As a fulltime composer and writer, who in times past has really had to put the hours in just to pay the bills (and is still plugging away in the modern century), i really don't care about the middlemen at all. In the 30 + years i've been doing this, i can't remember one of them who ever considered an equality in return for effort. And it's fair to say many artists (as opposed to composers and writers) have an assumption that somehow they're owed a living. Yet i've never seen an artist reward a writer to any substantial degree for that great song, or wonderful idea. Many are as bad as the record labels they seek to defend indirectly through their support for the DEA, when it comes to fair return for the creators behind the scenes.
    So let's not mix up the artists who are part of the mechanical process called record label production, with those who really know their stuff musically, and perform because they're right into it with the fans. The "artists" have a vested interest in keeping the old business model alive, because if they had to go it alone, they wouldn't be nearly so sure of spending their own cash to do.
    The DEA seeks to protect the few, and ignores the many, most of all those who have the gumption, talent, and determination to go it on their own. Never before have single artists or bands had such a great opportunity to cut out the grasping middleman, or greedy promoter, and communicate directly with their fans. The internet is a massive potential for people like me, who write music for others to listen to, dance to, throw tomatoes at, or laugh about, as is their choice. There are more independent artists arriving all the time, and after the initial push, and wave of mediocrity, the new business model will settle into the very thing you want. A fair payment for your work, if it's good enough, and if you're prepared to do the hard work to coonect with enough like minded people. Those who pay me i have a great relationship with. By the very nature of their interest, and enthusiasm, i have to aspire to ever higher standards. I work very hard to connect with them, as that's part of the new business model. On average, between 3 and 5% of those who download my music make a contribution. I have no DRM or restrictive licenses. They can copy the music, play it to their friends, put it on their music player, i don't care, it's their choice. I make enough to do this fulltime, and they, a lot of who work long hours to support themselves, the same as i do, get something they can enjoy, and don't have to look over their shoulder to enjoy.
    And suprise, surprise. My modest collection of followers are red hot when it comes to tracking down others who try to hack my work into their own. They don't expect anything for this, but my my do they let the interlink know, when they find something that's been stolen. That has afar bigger impact on the "artist" taking the work, and his or her street cred, and possibly income, than if i went down the expensive and ultimately unsatisfactory legal avenue.
    I think the opposite might be true, in the new business model, if the DEA gets nailed to the wall and crushed, as it rightly deserves. Publishers, promoters, etc, will start to run out of customers/victims as more and more go indy as a direct result of the independence of the internet. That means a talented performer or writer, in a true irony, will get approached by a label, or a publisher, and is in the driving seat for a change, able to exact a much fairer contract as a result. It'll take time, but the change in relationship will benefit talent far more than it does now, imho.
    Squash the DEA, and let the natural ebb and flow take its course. The old business model relied on inclusive,restrictive, and monopolistic distribution. That's no longer the ONLY option, hence their feverish attempts to nurture a dying goose, once golden.
    There is a wave of what's called piracy/online filesharing at the moment. It'll pass, and settle into a decent business model. The mediocrity will get put in the rubbish, as it deserves, instead of being stuck in a bikini and filmed miming on a beach, and the real talent, as it always does, will rise to the surface in a new, independent model where the "artist" has to work a lot harder for their piece of the pie, but a model in which "effort in, reward out" truly applies, and the pie is all theirs.
    As an indy, i have no fear of letting the listener decide to pay or not. I'd rather have an income from those who appreciate what i do, than spend any time chasing those who'd either never pay anyway, or don't like the music, and don't want to contribute.

    Record labels, ruthless promoters, some publishers, don't have talent. They control distribution models. The DEA is designed to protect those models, and bears no relation or intent of protection towards creative talent, and the reward for it (or not), at all.

  • Comment number 48.


    Fascinating, and I applaud you. There are many creative industries where the consumer is told what to like by "industry experts", and only a select few are "chosen" to be presented to the public, while many thousands of extremely talented people are left to struggle, or even rot and fail, by the wayside. I'm thinking of fashion, for example, where it seems, at least in the UK, if you didn't study at St Martins in London, or your daddy isn't already rich and famous, then you've got absolutely no chance of being lauded by those who control the fashion media, no matter how good your work is.

    In publishing, there are many small independent publishers, who publish limited amounts of books, who have built a small army of fans that enable them to keep going. Which is good, but it also means the authors will never achieve the income of a J.K. Rowling. Same with the music industry: I've no doubt that, even if your music is brilliant, you will never earn as much as Michael Jackson, simply because most people will never even be aware of it and hear it. And that's what you're really fighting against: the ability of the old business model to distribute to a larger audience. And artists who DO want that kind of income, and that level of awareness, will always gravitate to, and support, the established distribution methods.

    As Duke pointed out earlier, the consumer (or audience or fan) wants convenience: and it's more convenient for the consumer to get their music/art/whatever from established channels. As you say, in your model, the artist has to work harder for a slice of the pie: but the consumer has to work harder to even find you in the first place, and that's where it suffers. Otherwise, I think it's an exciting idea, and I'm all for it. But I don't see the death of the old model for a long time yet.

  • Comment number 49.

  • Comment number 50.

    The fact that mass emailing or mail-bombing is not just useless, but often also counterproductive, is nothing new. See here for another real life example from the 2009 campaigns to protect Net Neutrality in the European Union:

  • Comment number 51.

    If the same number of
    people who emailed their MP
    instead attended their
    surgeries, I suspect that the
    MP would get equally
    annoyed. It's not the method,
    but the numbers. Any
    number over a mere handful
    forces the MP to do
    something about it, whether
    they are personally annoyed
    by it or not.


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