Monday, 5 July 2010

Your freedom - a chance to be heard or a copyright 'cover-up'?

Late last week, I overheard an announcement on Radio 4's Today programme that the Con/Dem coalition were planning on soliciting the opinions of the British public regarding current laws that are not fit for purpose.  Nick Clegg and the coalition Government have pledged to consider up to ten of the most popular workable ideas, which will inspire the landmark Freedom Bill later this year. A website has been set up for voters to put forward their ideas, entitled 'Your Freedom'.  Clegg spells out the aims in this video:



Now, this sounds like an ideal opportunity for opponents of the Digital Economy Bill to put forwards their objections.  Indeed, several people have already done this (search the site for "copyright" and you will find a number of tagged posts referring to the Bill). The site is divided into three distinct sections: restoring civil liberties, repealing unnecessary laws and cutting business and third sector regulations.   Users of the site can suggest topics and vote on the relative value of the suggestions, giving the government an indication as to what issues are important to the public.

'Cover-up'?

That is, of course, until you try and vote on the many topics that are specifically entitled "Digital Economy" such as this, this, this, this, this, this, this and this one.  This may be because some (not all) are tagged as duplicates - it is not entirely clear why some posts are locked down and other are not, but this reasoning is as good as any.  In one interesting post, a voter going by the name of bingoboblin has argued that a 'cover-up' exists on the Your Freedom site, noting that moderators were borought in the day after the site was launched.  They claim that 'copyright' was one of the most frequently used tags on the launch day, being highly visible on the homepage, but now
we have no Copyright, DEB or any otherrelated words on the home page despite these being without question the most popular and commented on subjects.
Is this really a conspiracy or is it more likely the result of multiple requests for similar sounding repeals has prevented an accurate measure of the public's attitude?  After all, if 200 authors all created their own post rather than strategically voting up post in a co-ordinated manner then the initial effort is wasted.  It's quite clear that a site like this would be a target for critics of the Digital Economy Bill, but it may be that a slew of similar sounding requests has resulted in a fragmented and disparate effort.  Either way, this is a great way for the government to engage the public around prescient issues.

At the time of writing a topic entitled the Digital Economy Act 2010 tops the 'repealing unnecessary laws' category in terms of ratings.  If you are against the Act, then this is the one I recommend you vote for.  However, in terms of being the most commented upon, a post entitled Digital Economy Act is rated higher - it wouldn't hurt to vote for this topic too.  A little co-ordination can go a long way

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