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RIPping into a bad Bill

by Giles Turnbull -- 2000/06/12

After nearly a year of being nagged by campaigners, the UK media is waking up to the prospect of the RIP Bill - now making its way through Parliament - becoming law. Recent coverage in the Observer newspaper was a good start - now the BBC is joining in.

The story even made it to BBC Radio 4's Today programme today - a sure sign that it has achieved some credibility among journalists.

For some time, campaigners such as FIPR and Stand have fought to get media coverage of the issues, only to find newspapers and broadcasters largely put off by the prospect of having to explain encryption to a non-technical audience.

But understanding is at the center of this debate. (If you need a simple explanation, read John Naughton's three-minute guide.) It could be argued that Members of Parliament have passed the Bill this far because many of them simply don't understand what's at stake. Members of the public - and that includes a lot of media news editors - have not been interested in hearing about why it was a bad idea for the same reason.

What's extraordinary about the Bill is that if passed into law, it would make the UK one of the least attractive global markets for e-commerce, indeed for using the net in any way at all.

So why is all this important to WriteTheWeb? Because it's about the freedom we have all enjoyed so far on the internet, the same freedom which has turned it into a medium that is not simply read-only. If the British government is so determined to undermine that freedom, anyone involved in creating content for the net - whether they are based in the UK or not - should have an opinion about it.