copyright and the uk parliament

In my previous post today I was going to embed a video from UK Parliament.  In the end, I only linked to it because embedding put these limits on my freedom of speech (the bold is mine):

2.1 You may only embed UK Parliament Recordings on websites that are not excluded by UK Parliament. The categories of website that are excluded are set out below. Sites that:

  • Advertise or Promote Commercial activity
  • Promote, encourage or facilitate illegal activity
  • Encourage hatred on grounds of race, religion, gender, disability, age or sexual orientation or promote, encourage or facilitate anti-social behaviour
  • Lower the dignity of either House or that of individual members.

Now while the first three items I can easily take onboard, the last one I really cannot.  In a free and just parliamentary and participative democracy, one party to the formula cannot tell the other how and when not to comment via such a vague and catch-all umbrella.

To be honest, my disagreement with the principles outlined on the page linked to in this post goes further.  I cannot see why an elected assembly whose members only continue to access their democratic pulpits through the very votes, taxes and say-so of their current constituents can contemplate reserving the right to limit the diffusion of the content thus generated.  Surely anyone who is an MP, and by-the-by in a conditional public domain, is only speaking because we have wanted to give them the opportunity to do so.  And if Cameron’s government can propose going so far as to open-source the tech behind benefits claims, why not similarly release from onerous copyright restrictions the use and reuse of what our elected representatives choose to say?

In essence what they’re saying is you can comment if you’re respectful (according to their definition, so far unexplained), but don’t expect to have the right to compare and contrast when you overstep the line (whatever that may be).  This isn’t, of course, what open government would choose to do.  Open government would publish and be damned.  Open government would allow for the alternatives of cutting satire.  Parody would be on the table too.  Timely criticism, biting examples … all this would be permitted.

However, it would seem that UK Parliament doesn’t occupy a world where freedom of expression is valued above everything else.  Except, of course, when notable members wish to justify IT project overruns that (probably deliberately, certainly cavalierly) damage the health and welfare of the poor, sick, disabled, homeless and terribly unemployed.

Open source, you love to claim?  Open sewer, more like.  This really does need a clean-up of principles, pronto.

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