UK Petition Site Flooded With Signatures for User Rights

What happens when you make an online website devoted to petitions on a wide range of issues? Apparently, it’ll collect many signatures.

Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes

Number 10 launched a petition website on November 13. By November 15, it received hundreds of signatures for the Prime Minister. The petition that received the most attention was reportedly the petition that fights for user rights which, in just under three days after the launch, received more than 800 signatures.

The petition reads, “We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to create a new exception to copyright law that gives individuals the right to create a private copy of copyrighted materials for their own personal use, including back-ups, archiving and shifting format.” The petition also has a deadline of December 26 of this year. With this much attention already, one may wonder if this is a sign of things to come, or just a small spike that will taper off with time.

Such petitions aren’t really anything new. In particular, one petition in Canada includes a similar request: “We, the undersigned residents of Canada draw attention of the House to […] ensure in particular that any changes [to Canadian law] at least preserve all existing users’ rights, including the right to use copyrighted materials under Fair Dealing and the right to make private copies of audio recordings.” The unfortunate part: the petition page explains, “The petition is going to be presented to Parliament, so this can’t be as easy as we’d like it to be.” It goes on to say that people signing the petition must print out a copy of the petition, sign it themselves, and mail it in. For many users, it would be more convenient to do this electronically, as with Number 10. This is not to say, however, that the new restrictions have made the Canadian petition unsuccessful, since it has collected nearly 2500 signatures as of November 16. It only made this particular petition a little more tricky, in comparison, for people signing it.

This does not suggest that there is competition between petitions by any means, though these trends do suggest that the outcry amongst people has grown over these issues. Generally speaking, it begs a personal question of, ‘Do I have the right to do what I want with entertainment I paid for or not?’ or maybe even, ‘Is entertainment necessarily tied with the medium it is packaged in or not?’ There is no denying that there is a movement that demands that space-shifting, time-shifting, and back-up making should be legalised, as proven by petitions like these. There are certainly petitions that go along with the ideas of user rights in the US.

What will become of these petitions and what impact they will have is difficult to say. Optimists may claim that they are doing something about the potential changes in the law with regards to copyright. Without people signing petitions or any sign of opposition, there is no debate on these issues. Pessimists, on the other hand, might claim that the system is stacked against the common person and one voice won’t matter because it’s just one name. This, of course, can be coupled with more well-known issues, possibly clouding over copyright issues locally.

In the end, it has always boiled down to personal choice as to whether or not one chooses to sign the petition. While Slyck cannot necessarily favour one side over the other, Slyck can note that the movement certainly exists and might be gaining some traction.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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