Intervention in the House: Use of Authors' work on the internet (Digital Economy Bill)

MacShane Urges Protection of Journalists Rights in Digital Economy Bill

8 April 2010

Speaking in the closing stages of the Digital Economy bill, Labour MP Denis MacShane, said that journalists, musicians and creative workers should not have their work stolen from them to be handed out free on the internet. The MP, a former president of the National Union of Journalist, criticised Lib-Dem and Labour MPs who were seeking to deny to creative workers a fair share of their added value by allowing free access to what they produce. After the debate MacShane said : "I share the concern that this bill was rushed through without full consideration and the issue will certainly have to be revisited after the election but the core principal that the labourer is worthy of his or her hire is now in law and I welcome that."
Since then there have been blog attacks on MacShane including one blogger who accused the Rotherham MP of "standing up for the great unwashed masses of broadsheet journalists". Commenting on this attack the MP said : "I have defended journalists and media freedom all my life. I am saddened that there is so little understanding of the need to stop the theft of intellectual property rights. I support the widest access to the web but there needs to be some balance and both sides in this debate need to cool down the rhetoric and work on rules that can help everyone."
Below is Denis MacShane’s intervention as published in Hansard

Mr. Denis MacShane (Rotherham) (Lab): I rise as a former president of the National Union of Journalists to humbly suggest to the Committee that the labourer is worthy of his hire. If someone puts his intellectual effort into writing an article, making some music or creating something, it should not be stolen from him and handed out free through the power of the internet.

As a parent, I have to say that it may not be the most unwelcome thing in the world for a father or mother to tell their child, "Actually, you can't spend all evening on the internet."
I understand why the Liberal Democrats-representing big capitalism-generally oppose the measure, but as a socialist I am astonished that some of my hon. Friends are telling my journalist colleagues and others that they do not have the right to protect that which they have created, and to have some modest share of the value they add to our economy, because that would represent problems for wi-fi providers, internet café owners or hotels.

That is not something I am happy with, and that is why, in the last, dying hours of a Labour Government, I am doing something that may be difficult for colleagues, which is to support a Labour Government. I do so not from Labour loyalty, but because I profoundly believe that the explosion of the net-of information provision-which I welcome, must not deny those who add value to it their chance to have some share of that which they produce.

Mr. Foster: Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. MacShane: A Liberal Democrat asks me to give way. We are in the last dying hours of this Parliament. That party has always stood up for the rich and the privileged against the rights of journalists and trade unionists. I will not give way. If he wants to make another speech, he can do so.
This article was published on the Guardian website

David Cameron's Prague spring

5 April 2010
As a Czech party leader is forced to stand down over homophobic remarks, can we expect Tories to follow suit?

Chris Grayling would fit in well with David Cameron's new allies in eastern Europe. On the Radio 4 Today programme this morning, Michael Heseltine airily dismissed a question about the Conservatives breaking links with their sister parties in eastern Europe as something that no voter was interested in. Maybe, but the judgment call of David Cameron in crawling into bed, breakfast, lunch and dinner with weird rightwing nationalist populists does deserve greater scrutiny.

We know about the dubious record on the Holocaust of Michal Kaminski, who leads the Tory MEPs in the European parliament. We know that Cameron's Latvian allies join in the annual commemoration of the Waffen-SS in Vilnius. Now, the latest example of the unpleasant nature of the Conservatives' new chums in Europe comes from Prague.

There, Mirek Topolanek has been forced to stand down as leader of his party (ODS in Czech) just ahead of crucial elections. The reason? Like Grayling, he made unacceptable remarks about a gay transport minister in the current Czech government. He also sneered at the Czech prime minister, Jan Fischer, as "the Jew". Fischer's son has reacted furiously to the antisemitic tone of Cameron's Czech mate.

David and Mirek are close buddies. Last spring, Cameron went to Prague to stand side by side with Topolanek to launch their breakaway Movement for European Reform. The ODS hero is the Czech president, Vaclav Klaus. He is a climate change denier and virulently anti-EU. During the communist era, unlike the other Vaclav – Havel, who led the resistance against totalitarianism – Klaus worked for the communist regime.

Klaus discovered his rightwing anti-European views once Havel had helped bring down communism. For William Hague, who was instructed by Cameron to destroy the Tory alliance with Germany's ruling CDU party or France's ruling UMP party, the ODS, whose hero is the Eurosceptic Thatcher-admiring Klaus, was a natural partner. When Angela Merkel came to London last weekend, she refused to meet Cameron. Before May 1997, every European leader wanted to be seen with Tony Blair. In 2010, no one want to know Cameron, who will poison Britain's business and trade relations with Europe if he becomes prime minister.

Cameron's friend in Prague is exposed as someone with views on gays and Jews that should put him beyond the pale in decent European politics. But the massive shift to the right in European politics – evidenced by the racist and anti-Jewish BNP and xenophobic Ukip wins in the European parliamentary elections last June is altering the British political landscape.

The PiS party in Poland is the main ally of the Conservatives. But whenever PiS politicians have gained power, they have targeted gays. As mayor of Warsaw, the PiS leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, banned Gay Pride marches and the PiS MEP Kaminski uses the term "paed " – a homophobic Polish slang word that needs no translation – to denigrate opponents.

Like Jean-Marie Le Pen, who first coined the word "federaste" to attack supporters of the European Union in France, the right in Europe lurches from nationalist populism, via homophobia, to hate of Muslims and unacceptable language about Jews; it indulges in a constant rant against the EU and Brussels to create a witches' brew of intolerance and political nihilism.

One can understand why Lord Heseltine wishes to see all this brushed under the carpet, and why Cameron prays every morning to the British news editors who refuse to examine and expose the Tory links to the new hard right in Europe with its rampant xeno- and homophobia.

Tory MEPs also refuse to support measures in the European parliament aimed at supporting gay rights and other equality measures. Again, there is simply no coverage of what is said and done in the European parliament and what would cause uproar if spoken on the floor of the House of Commons passes unnoticed in Strasbourg.

Whereas Topolanek's homophobia has forced his resignation there is no inkling that Cameron is willing to take action against Grayling. But someone should dig up the pictures of David and Mirket as they toasted the launch of their new party. The Czech ODS members have forced Topolanek to go ahead of their election. Are there any decent Tories out there who will say it is also time for Grayling to be removed from the frontbench? And will Chris Patten, who is now attacking Gordon Brown, say anything, but anything, about his party leader's alliance with some of the nastiest extremists operating in European politics?

This column was published in Newsweek

As Europe Dithers

2 April 2010 (from the magazine issue dated 12 April 2010)

Not since the 1930s have international politics been in such flux. Rising states such as China, India, Turkey, and Brazil, as well as a newly assertive Russia, are challenging the old democracies as never before. But rather than use its growing Union to assert itself, Europe has failed to convert the EU into a serious foreign-policy player—and looks increasingly irrelevant. Brussels recently had to cancel the annual EU-U.S. summit due for Madrid next month when President Barack Obama decided to skip the empty photo call. Obama is flying to Europe shortly, but to meet with Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev in Prague. For the first time since Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt signed the Atlantic Charter in 1941, the concept of a common Euro-Atlantic world view seems empty, even quaint.

It was not meant to be like this. The Lisbon Treaty creating a new EU constitution was ratified amid great fanfare last fall after a decade-long wrangle. The treaty is full of grand language on a common foreign policy, which was supposed to be executed by the holders of two new posts: a president of the European Council and a foreign minister (called a "high representative" in Euro-jargon). But it isn't working.

Pundits talk of a U.S.-China G2 and leave the EU on the sidelines. China ignored EU pretensions to lead on climate change at Copenhagen, and Russia ignores Brussels, seeking bilateral relations with compliant European leaders such as Silvio Berlusconi. Turkey has snubbed Europe by warmly welcoming Iran's president, and Brazil has done the same by encouraging Argentina as it reasserts its claims to the Falklands.

Part of the problem is personality—specifically those of Europe's unknown new president, Herman van Rompuy, and its still lesser-known foreign minister, Catherine Ashton. But their lack of celebrity misses the real point. It is now clear that Europe's leaders never really intended to develop a united voice on world affairs. The European Commission president, José Manuel Barroso, hated the idea of having to share the global limelight. Meanwhile, French President Nicolas Sarkozy sees himself as a global player in his own right, in the oversize mold of Gen. Charles de Gaulle. As Europe watches Russia's new assertiveness with concern, Sarkozy has sold Moscow advanced warships.

A low-profile EU also suits Germany's Angela Merkel, whose only priority seems to be avoiding doing anything that might hurt German exports. It suits the Spanish government, which still refuses to recognize Kosovo, thus undermining any hope of a general Balkan settlement. And it suits London, where foreign policy is on hold until after the May 6 election.

National leaders are also split on the key foreign-policy questions facing Europe. They hold widely divergent views on whether to confront or accommodate Russia, to welcome or reject Turkey as a member, whether to take a hard line with Israel, and what to do in Afghanistan. While NATO gives lip service to the effort there, few EU nations have proved willing to commit troops to fight the Taliban. Indeed, that conflict has already led to the collapse of the Dutch government.

Even on a peripheral issue such as relations with Cuba, some European foreign ministers parley with Castro's apparatchiks while others boycott the Caribbean dictatorship. Europe does have innovative foreign-policy thinkers, such as Greece's George Papandreou (who, as foreign minister, transformed Greece's relations with Turkey) and Poland's Radek Sikorski (who has calmed tensions with Warsaw's neighbors). But they are locked in domestic struggles that consume all their time.

Instead of dealing with serious issues, Brussels spends its energy demanding that the EU now get three seats at G8, G20, and IMF gatherings, making it look as though it was more concerned with securing prestige than delivering actual clout. A no- or low-growth EU with a declining defense budget seems less and less relevant on the world stage.

Ashton and Rompuy are not to blame. The problem is Europe's national leaders, who have decided to put their own domestic interests before the Union's. In the meantime, the most the EU can muster is a common agricultural and trade policy. A real common foreign policy remains a distant fantasy—and it's far from clear when Europe's leaders or voters will support one.

Sarko-no vote in the regional elections in France

This article was published in Newsweek

29 March 2010

Big Trouble for Sarko

The price of underachievement.

It may not be time to say adieu, but French President Nicolas Sarkozy is finally starting to look like a loser after seeming unbeatable for 20 years. The first round of regional elections in early March gave him a terrible battering. As the left-leaning weekly Le Nouvel Observateur said on its cover, it's SAR K.O.

The president's problem is basic: he hasn't delivered. He is a perpetual, frenetic campaigner, always rushing out new initiatives and looking for headlines. But France wants a president who rises above the scrimmage, either a remote father figure like Charles de Gaulle—obsessed with the grandeur of la France—or an urbane tonton (uncle) like François Mitterrand, who oozed a sense of literature and history. De Gaulle made France a modern, powerful nation, while Mitterrand made it a key European player. Sarkozy is a mere politician in a country hungry for a statesman.

Sarkozy has plenty of energy but can't seem to establish coherent priorities. He denounces capitalism at the World Economic Forum, but adores partying with hyperrich French oligarchs. France's increasing number of retired voters want more public spending on hospital care and pensions, and Sarkozy says he will look after them. Yet he simultaneously promises entrepreneurs that he'll cut taxes and make people work longer and pay more for public services.

Sarkozy won office in 2007 by promising to clean the "scum" off the streets, using high-pressure hoses if necessary. He began a debate on national identity that has opened a Pandora's box of racist and anti-Muslim hate. Perhaps as a result, alienated young Muslims still indulge in ritual car burning, and France's Islamist ideologues are growing more strident. Thus a chunk of the far-right voters Sarkozy won over in the last election have reverted to the openly anti-Muslim National Front.

His own party faithful have been denied promotion and power as Sarkozy has stuffed his government with outsiders from the left or NGOs to curry media favor. Now the disgruntled in Sarkozy's Union for a Popular Movement are starting to turn against their president, who seems to have lost his winner's touch.

In 2007 Sarkozy promised to become the human-rights president. But to maintain France's role in Africa, court China, and win contracts in Libya, Sarkozy shelved France's self-proclaimed role as Europe's guardian of les droits de l'homme. Meanwhile, after bringing France back into NATO (to the fury of the military-industrial establishment), he then sold high-tech warships to Russia—which just declared NATO its enemy.

Nor has Sarkozy played France's EU cards with much skill. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is fed up with French sermons on the need for Germany to cut exports and increase domestic consumption. She is now calling for a change in EU treaty law to allow the expulsion from the euro zone of a country that fails to abide by EU rules on debt and deficits. The obvious target is Greece. But Merkel's outburst was also a challenge to France, which has regularly flouted EU fiscal criteria—especially when Sarkozy was finance minister under Jacques Chirac.

Paris longs for a return to the days when the EU was run by a Franco-German axis, as it was under Valéry Giscard d'Estaing and Helmut Schmidt in the 1970s, or Mitterrand and Helmut Kohl in the 1980s, or Chirac and Gerhard Schröder when they united against the Bush-Blair war in Iraq. But Sarkozy and Merkel have never gotten along. They don't speak the same political language, and her austere social conservatism is the antithesis of his hedonistic style.

As Sarkozy fiddles, France's new Socialist Party leader, Martine Aubry, has calmly been building her team. This quiet approach paid off in the recent elections, as the French voted against their anything-but-quiet president. And the Socialists hold a powerful card they have yet to play. The current head of the International Monetary Fund is Dominique Strauss-Kahn, a Socialist who won plaudits as Europe's best finance minister in the 1990s. Now, like a latter-day de Gaulle, Strauss-Kahn lurks in the wings, preparing to challenge Sarkozy's lackluster administration in the 2012 presidential race. Bad midterm elections with a low turnout are not precise guides to the upcoming national contest. But Sarkozy has lost his invincibility and, for France's Socialists, that just might make the difference.