Only Idiots Assume (http://www.dontdisconnect.us/category/winners/) written by Londoner Liam Mullone and sung by his friend Hils Barker, is a stinging attack on the Government’s plans to disconnect people suspected of watching films and music online without paying for the privilege.
Fry selected the song to win a competition organised by TalkTalk, Britain’s biggest provider of broadband to homes.
“I am insanely in love with Only Idiots Assume,” said Stephen Fry. “It’s got the anger, the wit, the musical skill - all in a wonderful package that reminds me of the high days of my youth when punk roamed the land and the young were angry and funny and spunky and spiky.”
Liam Mullone, who, along with Hils Barker, is carving out a successful career on the comedy circuit, described the entry as a “ska-punk reply to Peter Mandelson”. Lord Mandelson is the minister behind the Digital Economy Bill which contains the controversial copyright protection clauses. The Bill is making its way through Parliament and may become law before the election.
“I’m used to having my material taken because you can’t protect a joke,” said Liam. “I sympathise with any artist who gets discouraged at the thought of not making a living. But just because a problem is bigger than the government’s imagination, it isn’t bigger than the Magna Carta or the principle of due process.
“Assuming that people with high download volumes are stealing stuff is like calling someone a witch because they have a black cat. It’s a medieval premise.”
TalkTalk’s petition against the Government’s plans has so far received over 32,000 signatures on the Number 10 website: http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/dontdisconnectus/.
The company has been an outspoken critic of the Government’s plans to disconnect people suspected of copyright infringement, arguing that such a penalty should only be imposed if guilt has been proved in a court
Andrew Heaney, TalkTalk’s executive director of strategy and regulation, said: “We launched this competition (called Sing Our Petition) to show the depth of public feeling about the Government’s misguided proposals.
“We wanted to tap into the outstanding creativity of the Great British public to send a clear message to the Government – these laws won’t work and people don’t want them.”
Fry continued: “I’m no defender of systematic deliberate criminal downloading but in my estimation the government’s proposed ‘Three-Strike’ Copyright Protection Law is ill-conceived, constitutionally outrageous, morally unfair and epically foolish. This is not the way to protect and strengthen the creative music, film and TV industries – it is a way further to alienate and antagonise the very people on whom those industries depend.
“Aside from the skewed psychology and hilarious inappropriateness of major labels and studios leading a crusade for artistic freedom and independence, the planned legislation reveals a deep misunderstanding of the online world. Large scale criminal P2P downloaders will certainly be smart enough to avoid attention while the innocent or small-time (most of whom are good customers) will be penalised without recourse to the due process of law. I shake my head in sad disbelief that Britain could seriously be contemplating going down a path like this.”
Last week TalkTalk held an event for MPs and Peers designed to demonstrate the futility of the proposals, specifically why the system designed to spot copyright infringement will entrap completely innocent customers while persistent offenders will remain undetected.
For a more detailed explanation of why TalkTalk and many others believe the copyright infringement proposals in the Digital Economy Bill is so wrong, visit www.dontdisconnect.us. Other Sing Our Petition competition entries can also be found on the site.
About Hils and Liam aka ‘Broken Dongles’
Liam Mullone and Hils Barker are stand-up comedians and libertarians.
Liam was previously a gravedigger, a restaurant critic and a journalist for the Times, and has written for ITV1, Radio 1 and Radio 4, with credits including The Now Show, the Arthur Smith Lectures and 28 Acts in 28 Minutes.
Hils is also an actress and a writer. She gigs up and down the country, including recently at the Hammersmith Apollo as part of the LIVEstock gig to raise funds for Friends Of The Earth. You can catch her soon on Radio 4’s comedy panel game Act Your Age.
Both have created work on the theme of civil liberties. Liam’s 2007 show Health + Safety explored the dehumanising effect of “beneficial” H&S legislation, and Hils’ 2008 show Exhibitionist! looked at the nightmare scenario of the Government knowing as much about us as Facebook - or even running it. The duo are turning this idea into a sitcom for the producer Paul Jackson.