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Steinberg is really thinking about the low-budget, non-commercial, very effective sites that his charity MySociety has set up over the last 10 years in the UK, which aim to help non-party democracy at a grass roots level, by helping make citizens more powerful against government at all levels, by creating systems that give them more information, help them work together, and track and share the outcomes of what happens when they tangle with power.
What Steinberg is saying is that systems like that, that make the citizen more powerful, are far more impressive to him than systems which make a particular political party more effective. It's a bit surprising that so far seemingly every poster here has missed Steinberg's point.
So for example:
- TheyWorkForYou -- a site which took the official record of the UK Parliament, and transformed it, making it searchable and commentable, and easy to track MPs by what they'd said. MPs were so impressed, they changed crown copyright law to make it legal.
- The Public Whip -- easily browsable index of how MPs have voted on any particular issue or issues
- Write to Them -- originally an email to fax gateway to allow constituents to contact their MPs, in the days when few MPs used or knew about email. Still helps UK citizens identify exactly who are their elected representatives, and how to reach them, at different levels of government.
- WhatDoTheyKnow Site making it very easy to file Freedom of Information requests, and to track and share their progress, in a way that anyone can browse.
- FixMyStreetSite allowing residents to publicly report problems with their local neighbourhoods to their local council, and browse other such reports, council responses etc.
These are the sort of sites Tom Steinberg is talking about -- sites that change the balance between people and government at a grass roots level, by allowing people to work together and see what each other are doing.
I've used eg the FoI tool, and it works. Think of these as force-multipliers for the individual's voice and clout in society.
It includes the following documents for this dossier:
* Text proposed by the EU Commission
* Committee rapporteur's draft report, with her proposed amendments (1 to 48)
* Amendments proposed by other members of the committee (49 to 170)
* Opinion of the Culture committee (CULT), and their proposed amendments (CULT 1 to CULT 55)
* Opinion of the committee on the Internal Market (IMCO), and their proposed amendments (IMCO 1 to 41).
Unfortunately there does not appear to be a copy of the "Compromise Amendments", including the disputed amendment in question, "Compromise 20". One of the MEPs complains in the video at the end of the agenda item (10:51) that the text of these were only circulated on the night before the meeting.
It's not unusual for new texts to appear as heads get bashed together in the days immediately before the actual voting (in fact, it is an essential part of the system); but in this case they don't appear to have been placed on the website, or at any rate I didn't know where to find them.
The amended report from JURI, consolidating the results of these votes, appears now to have been formally prepared with the document reference A7-0055/2012, though I couldn't find the text of it yet on the Parliament website. This will now go forward for a short debate before the whole parliament, before voting on the amendments proposed by JURI, the amendments proposed by the other two committees, and any other amendments to the Commission text proposed by a sufficient number of MEPs.
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HHJ Ticehurst (@ para 71) in Rock & Overton held "make available should bear its ordinary and natural meaning". He distinguished between providing money "directly to" another as opposed to a financial adviser who may "point" another to a bank meaning the bank alone "makes available the money".
I have endeavoured to weigh these subtle distinctions. The diagrams of how as a matter of electronic mechanics (if I may term it) the TVShack websites actually operated favour HHJ Ticehurstâ(TM)s restrictive construction. To my mind there is much in the distinction factually...
In copyright law terms, O'Dwyer wasn't making the films "available". The person that made them available was the person who uploaded them to a download site. What O'Dwyer was doing was pointing to those sites, and (allegedly) thus encouraging people to download from them. In civil law, that is known as indirect or contributory infringement, as opposed to direct infringement which is the actual making available of copies. It is "making available" that can be a criminal offence under s.107(2A), not the encouragement or inducement of people to go ahead and download from such sites. Thus, for example, a briefing for UK Trading Standards officers, compiled by the Federation Against Copyright Theft, and hosted on the UK Intellectual Property Office's website, advises them that:
The offence in s107(2A) is now available as a tool to trading standards officers to prosecute uploading file sharers of digital product, such as film and music, whether or not they do so in the course of a business. [Emphasis added].
Interestingly, this may also be the position in the United States, where the law on contributory infringement is said to be civil law that has been developed by judges, but not reflected in any provisions of the criminal law. However this point appears not to have been argued by O'Dwyer's lawyers. What should have happened here is that the extradition proceedings should have been thrown out, on the basis that O'Dwyer's actions are not in fact covered by s.107(2A). But he should then have faced a full-on civil action in the UK courts from a consortium of content owners for the alleged indirect infringement. It is also about time that UK judges in extradition cases were directed to consider where a case should best be heard under conflict-of-laws provisions: the so-called "forum clause". In this case, with the alleged infringer being UK-based, and the alleged infringement being worldwide in scope, if this is supposed to be a crime under UK law it should have been tried under UK law.