The Underlying Assumptions of the Digital Economy Bill

April 7th 2010 was the date on which the Digital Economy Bill (now Act) was crow-barred through the Houses of Parliament. Aside from the obvious unfairness of the Act’s methodology (see here), the underlying principles of intellectual property which it seeks to defend require careful revaluation in themselves.

To begin with, it is based on the notion of authorship. This idea was extensively critiqued by Roland Barthes and Michel Foucault in the 20th century. For Barthes, the figure of the author closed down the possibilities of a text. By killing the author and birthing the reader, limitless interpretations of a given text are possible. Foucault meanwhile saw the author as a potential figure for blame if a text is offensive, controversial, dangerous. The author can be punished for the text he/she created. Both are united in their view that authorship acts as a form of control, though one saw this as artistic control, the other social. (Ironically, it is not the nominal authors of a creative work that are likely to benefit from the Digital Economy Act; rather, it is the owners.)

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