John Whittingdale MP

John Whittingdale MP (Maldon and Chelmsford East) Conservative. Chairman, Culture, Media & Sport Committee Member, Liaison Committee. Vice-chair of the All-Party Intellectual Property Group. He is a patron of the Westminster eForum. A member of EURIM. Member of the Parliamentary Information Technology Committee. Makes a point to respond to all letters that are sent to him and if he forwards it on and gets a response will read the response to check that it answers the constituents questions if it does not he is not afraid to chase after an answer. This is refreshing as many MPs do not do this. Describes him self as a libertarian.

Has a degree in economics. Used to work in Whitehall and the City. Having worked in the Conservative Research Department, he was appointed Special Adviser to the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry in 1984, serving three successive Secretaries of State until 1987. He then went to work at NM Rothschild Merchant Bank in the City before returning to Government work in 1989 when he was appointed Political Secretary to the then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. He continued in that role until Margaret Thatcher left office in 1990 and he was awarded the OBE in her resignation honours list.

Issues

Superinjunctions & Libel

"Is my right hon. and learned Friend concerned about the possibility that the large number of injunctions that appear to be being granted on a routine basis suggests that the courts are paying insufficient regard to section 12 of the Human Rights Act 1998, which was intended to protect press freedom? Given that, and given the huge speculation on the internet about the identities of those who have obtained injunctions, does he feel that the time is approaching when Parliament may need to revisit the issue?" [1]

"One issue is the multiple publication rule. Libel laws were written when the internet did not really exist, and its advent has changed everything. That is true of the permanence of articles and statements, which can now be found on Google at the press of a button. The old Duke of Brunswick case also becomes much more serious in the age of the internet. Clearly, it is widely recognised that that should be addressed." [2]

"I turn now to the way Britain's libel laws are viewed overseas, because that should be of huge concern to the Government. The issue is encapsulated in the case of Rachel Ehrenfeld, whom the Committee met when it went to the States. She wrote a book in which she suggested that a Saudi Arabian business man, who has Irish citizenship, was in some way providing financial support to al-Qaeda and terrorism. An action was brought against her in the UK on the basis that 23 copies of the book had been sold here. Obviously, it was also accessible on the internet, so there was publication in that sense as well. However, the book was not widely available in the UK, and it is fairly clear that the case was brought here not because this was where the damage was done, or because Rachel Ehrenfeld or the Saudi Arabian had British citizenship, which they did not, but because the libel laws here were seen to favour claimants. On the back of that, we discovered that there are now widely shared fears in the United States..." [3]


File sharing

"To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what steps he is taking to prevent illegal file-sharing by those accessing the internet through free wi-fi hot spots; and if he will make a statement." [4]

"On file sharing, culprits are to be identified by askinginternet service providers to identify their customers through their internetprotocol, or IP, addresses. Nobody has yet explained to me how we will deal with university halls of residence; one has to suspect that a large proportion of the occupants of those are likely to be involved in illegal file sharing. Nobody has explained how we are to deal with internet cafés and wi-fi zones, all of which are proliferating. It cannot be right for us to cut off the whole of Starbucks just because one person went in for a cup of coffee and illegally shared files. The second provision, on site blocking, was introduced at a very late stage. Again, there is no question but that piracy is taking place not only through file sharing but through the accessing of illegal websites. The provisions that have now been introduced, which I assume will also pass, still raise serious questions. Is it proposed that a rights holder will have to take out individual injunctions against every single internet service provider? Unless they do, as soon as one ISP blocks access, the people who want to obtain illegal content will simply transfer their business to the next ISP. It is very simple to set up a proxy server. If access to a website is blocked, those in the business of distributing illegal content will set up a proxy server somewhere else; instead of going through the front door, everybody will simply come in through the back door. If that proxy server is cut off, another will follow." [5]

"We will debate the matter at greater length when we come to the measures against piracy through illegal file sharing that the Government are proposing to take in the Digital Economy Bill. It is worth remembering that it is not just protection of copyright that is at stake when we consider file sharing. There is equally the concern that it is being used to circumvent the protections that the House has put in place. In the most extreme cases, as I am sure the Ministerwill be aware, child pornography is being widely distributed through illegal file sharing. That is another reason why I share with other hon. Members the view that it is important that we get the Digital Economy Bill on to the statute book." [6]

"Does the Minister agree that online piracy represents a threat to the survival of the TV, film and music industries? What progress has he made in persuading internet service providers to take action against illegal file sharers by adopting a graduated response? Can he confirm that the Government will legislate to back up any action that is agreed?" [7]


Child Safety

"To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what progress has been made in establishing the UK Council for Child Internet Safety; and if he will make a statement." [8]

"The obvious concern is the question of harmful content in the form of extremely violent material or highly explicit sexual material and the use of the internet by people who may wish to harm others, particularly children. However, they were not the only concerns. We rapidly discovered other areas of growing concern, such as the encouragement of suicide. I am glad to see that Mrs. Moon is with us this afternoon. I am sure that she will want to say more about that matter in her contribution. Also of concern is the glorification of guns and whether it played a role in the murder of Rhys Jones in Liverpool and in the whole question of gang culture. The other area was anorexia and whether or not websites are encouraging young girls to harm themselves by ceasing to eat. Moreover, there is the question of the use of websites by extremist groups to incite people to join fundamentalist or terrorist organisations. There is also the issue of cyberbullying and the effect that that may have on vulnerable young people. I will come to the separate but related question of games later on." [9]

Registry of Mobile Phones

I welcome the Minister's commitment to civil liberties, but will the national security strategy include the establishment of a national database to maintain records of web page visits, e-mails and VoIP—voice over internet protocol—calls and whether the Government intend to introduce a compulsory register of all mobile phones in the country? [10]

Copyright

From comments made at the 2006 Conservative conference during a British Library fringe event. He is currently does not agree with the ORG view on Copyright.

Written answers Trade and Industry John Whittingdale Copyright (Sound Recording) 27 June 2005

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on the Government's policy regarding the extension of copyright term for sound recording.

Alan Johnson

Any extension of the term of protection for sound recordings would require a change to the EC directive which harmonises copyright terms across the EU and there are currently no proposals for such an amendment to this directive. Those who have rights in sound recordings have, nevertheless, made representations to us for an increased term of protection and, in considering whether or not to support this, we will be assessing the impact on all stakeholders.

On 20/12/2012, Whittingdale asked Vince Cable MP

Does the Secretary of State agree that intellectual property rights and copyright underpin the success of our creative industries, which are so important to the economy? Is he concerned that many in those industries feel that the Government, on the back of the Hargreaves report, will dilute their intellectual property rights, not least in the area of exceptions to copyright law?

Cable answered

The hon. Gentleman is right that the creative industries sector, which is crucial to the economy, depends heavily on intellectual property rights. However, we are dealing with a body of law that is extremely old—I believe that it goes back to Queen Anne. It certainly needs modification in the digital age. He is right that we need to move extremely carefully. That is why, over the last few weeks, we have been in discussions on some of the sensitive issues in relation to copying music and photography. When he studies the report in the Library, he will see that we have got the balance right between rights holders and liberalisation.[1]

Term Extension

Tory party backs commercial IP rights Conservative spokesman John Whittingdale, chairman of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, says,

"All parties are now much more conscious of Intellectual Property issues."
"As our manufacturing industry was replaced by our service industry which is now going overseas, the focus is on the creative industries – music, electronic games etc - which we are extremely good at, but this requires a framework of law from government."
"He added, "We need to make sure people can get a reward for their efforts yet a large number of people do not understand why copyright matters. The survival of the creative industry depends on copyright."
"He disagreed with the British Library’s recommendation to keep the term of copyright for sound recording as it is and not extend it to 95 years, citing the rights of the musicians and music industry to protect their copyright.

[11]

DRM

Approves of the BBC using DRM to restrict access of some of its content to the UK as only UK license payers have paid for it. Thinks that people are paying to much for the BBC licence and any thing that can bring that price down is a good thing.


Culture, Media and Sport Committee New Media and the creative industries John Whittingdale "You said at the start you did not wish to have statutory control or regulation, DRM, but wanted the market essentially to allow it advance?"

Mr Howkins: Yes, we believe the industry itself is sufficiently aware of these systems to sort it out itself. We do not think there is a package or public regulatory constraints that can be moved across. The systems are not at that stage yet. We would prefer to write them out ourselves, and then if we get them wrong for someone to come along and say, "You are getting that wrong". We think at the moment we should be left alone to do it.

Internet Access

John Whittingdale 16 October 2006

To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission if the Commission will take steps to make wireless access to the internet available in Portcullis House and the Palace of Westminster.

Rural Broadband Access

In favour of increase Rural Broadband Access.

Open Source Software

Signed Early Day Motion 179 Software in Schools 21 November 2006

That this House congratulates the Open University and other schools, colleges and universities for utilising free and open source software to deliver cost-effective educational benefit not just for their own institutions but also the wider community; and expresses concern that Becta and the Department for Education and Skills, through the use of outdated purchasing frameworks, are effectively denying schools the option of benefiting from both free and open source software and the value and experience small and medium ICT companies could bring to the schools market.

Links

News

2007-08-31 - The Times - Gangs and gun crime rekindle the debate on tighter internet regulation
Author: Dan Sabbagh
Summary: In the past fortnight MPs have queued up to criticise YouTube in an attempt to look tough on law and order, in response to the spate of gun crime. As a result, John Whittingdale, who chairs the Commons Culture Select Committee, is considering a public enquiry into the topic. "What we’re seeing is the emergence of this, and a whole series of undesirable things emerging from new media," Mr Whittingdale said. "There are also concerns about cyber-bullying and about the use by some Islamic fundamentalist groups of some pretty appalling websites." ... "I’m not sure there is currently the case for any statutory intervention," Mr Whittingdale said, "but we want to see Google and the internet service providers getting together and focusing on what might be done." An inquiry from Mr Whittingdale’s committee is likely in the next few months.
2007-05-16 - The Register - MPs cosy up with Sir Cliff on copyright term
Author: Chris Williams
Summary: Like Sir Cliff Richard, its biggest cheerleader and biggest embarrassment, the record industry campaign to extend copyright term on sound recordings refuses to die. A report released today by the Commons Culture, Media, and Sport Select Committee attempts to torpedo the recommendations of last year's wide-ranging intellectual property report for the Treasury by Andrew Gowers, the former editor of the Financial Times. ... Releasing its counter arguments in "New Media and the Creative Industries", the select committee said Gowers had failed to give proper weight to the "moral right" of Sir Cliff to retain ownership of his 1958 performance on Move It. The committee is chaired by Conservative John Whittingdale, who has acted as a spokesman for record industry trade body the BPI in the past on its battle with digital music trends.
2006-10-12 - Blogzilla - Tory spouts nonsense on intellectual property
Author: Ian Brown
Summary: I had the misfortune last week to hear John Whittingdale spout five minutes of decade-old clichés about copyright infringement, ranging from the tired old comparison between filesharing and CD theft, to the "fact" that car boot sales are funding terrorism, and that Digital Rights Management tools are the answers to everyone's prayers. David Cameron had somehow caused me to expect better at this year's Conservative party conference.
2006-06-19 - The Independent - MY LIFE IN MEDIA: John Whittingdale
Author: Liz Thomas
Summary: A self-confessed libertarian, John Whittingdale, 46, cut his teeth as Margaret Thatcher's political secretary before becoming a Tory MP himself in 1992. Having spent time as shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, he now wields more power as chair of the culture and media select committee grilling MPs, executives and industry officials on topics ranging from the licence fee and digital switch-over to music piracy and the 2012 Olympics. He is married to Ancilla, and has two children, Henry and Alice.
2006-05-19 - UK Association of Online Publishers - DCMS debates digital copyright law, as AOP called to give evidence
Summary: The Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, chaired by John Whittingdale MP, yesterday considered whether existing copyright law was adequate in the light of new digital technologies, and has invited AOP and PPA to submit evidence to the Committee.
2000-10-30 - The Register - UK e-biz minister shamed in report
Author: Tim Richardson
Summary: According to Tom Steinberg, the author of the article: "Miss Hewitt's website is not alone in the mildly comic ineptitude of its construction and flaccidity of its message. "The Tory ranks are also filled with the dead and the dying (Web pages that is), including the completely broken site of Shadow front bencher Eleanor Lang and the 1994-style efforts of John Whittingdale and Peter Luff."

References

  1. http://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2012-12-20a.983.5&s=speaker%3A10632#g983.8