Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Labour Do It Again

They really are creatures of habit, aren't they?

It was over a year ago that I wrote a long and discursive post about the nature of legal drafting, and Labour's habit of drafting laws that did indeed catch a naughty activity within their scope, but also caught a lot of other stuff.

Now, it seems, the Digital Economy Bill* is set to do the same. ZDNet reports that this will effectively outlaw open free WiFi. Now, there's usually quite a lot of meaning in the word "effectively", and this is no exception. However, the bill does place a requirement on anyone providing this to either declare themselves to be an ISP and therefore keep careful records of who uses their service in case any of them are naughty, or be a subscriber and hence liable for whatever anyone does on their network - with the potential threat of disconnection if someone fileshares. Whilst this is not actually the same as outlawing free open WiFi, it is (I think) close enough.

This is, therefore, a classic New Labour law on two counts. First, it is incompetently drafted because it has the effect of outlawing a whole host of perfectly acceptable activities. Second, it is drafted in the usual manner of "Catching the naughty person is hard, so we'll catch anyone who is standing near the scene of the naughtiness".

I'm going to quote in full one of the comments to that article, because it is just excellent:
Recent Government research has shown that practically all violent criminals, trrrrrsts, paedophiles, drug pushers and even MPs, were aided in their criminal activities by the use of clothes. It is therefore the opinion of this government that in order to hamper the efforts of these people that the use of clothes should outlawed. If anyone has an issue with this, just bear in mind that if only one child is saved from harm, it will have been worth it and if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear.
Seriously, though, this really is getting quite tedious. Can we have an election please?

*Sorry - can't help the obvious joke. We used to have an analogue economy, which could grow and shrink. Labour are committed to converting this to a digital economy, which can be either on or off. Until they got their hands on it, it was on. Now that Gordon has been running it... :-)


  1. I wonder how much of this is down to ignorance of the law, and how much ignorance of the technology?

    Whatever. It's certainly ignorance!

  2. A sad reflection on a government, surely, when we start wondering what type of stupid they are?

  3. The previous post you refer to, Legislative Incompetence, is brilliant. I commend everyone to read it.


    There is no excuse for ignorance. The truth is the authorities see the internet as something that needs to be regulated before it becomes too powerful. Home Secretaries in particular must perceive social networking as a threat in many ways. So their reaction is the softly softly approach to raise another sledgehammer to crack a nut and remove our ability to roam freely WiFi zones.

    Free Speech is going to become Recorded Speech, saved in files on some server somewhere and each individual can be held to account for what can be instantaneously identified as their messages. So much can be misconstrued that it may make us all far more boring. The net is closing in.