Friday, 16 July 2010

Liberal confusion: why Nick Clegg is losing credibility

The Digital Economy Act (DEA), aimed at regulating digital media and reducing copyright infringements, officially came into force on 12 June. Although there was no reference to the DEA in the Coalition Agreement, it is known Nick Clegg opposes the Act in its current form.

On Sunday 16 May, the Liberal Democrat Party released a statement after its party conference, calling on the coalition government to repeal the website-blocking and three-strikes disconnection elements of the DEA. During the party conference, the party voted on a motion dealing with the DEA.

In its statement, the Party said ‘the Conference urges Liberal Democrat Ministers and MPs to take all possible steps to ensure the repeal of those sections of the DEA which are inconsistent with policy motion “Freedom, Creativity and the Internet” as passed at Spring Conference 2010’. The policy motion in question condemned website blocking and disconnecting internet connections as a response to copyright infringement. At the same conference, the Lib Dems denounced the DEA as a whole for ‘focusing on illegal file sharing rather than on nurturing creativity’.

Even though there is no political support for the DEA within at least one political party, it is unlikely the Party’s latest motion will change anything. Even the fiercest critics do not have the illusion the DEA - or parts of it - will be revoked anytime soon. Unless sudden action is taken by the Lib Dems Ministers - which does not seem likely - it is status quo for the DEA.

The party’s recent statement might bring hope among the DEA’s critics there is no longer credible political consent for these sections of the law within at least one government party, but whether that anticipation is genuine remains to be seen. It is unlikely the DEA - or parts of it - will be revoked anytime soon. Lib Dems Ministers do not seem too keen on making this a political hot potato, unlike their time in opposition.