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<nettime> On the Internet download imbroglio in France...
Patrice Riemens on Sun, 25 Dec 2005 18:23:42 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> On the Internet download imbroglio in France...

The legislative tribulations of the copyright online finally made it to
the front page of the newspapers in France yesterday. Parliament, irate at
the government's haste in pushing a botched law proposal through its
throat in an emergency procedure just before the Christmas break, adopted
an amendment making _private_ downloading of pictures and music by and
large legit. Shocked, PM de Villepin chose to postpone the whole proposal
till after the holiday, even at the expense of ridiculing his minister of
culture. Some in foreign parts have already hailed a breaktrough and
portrayed France as shining example of liberal legislative thinking.

This enthusiasm might be very premature. First the amendment is very
likely to be withdrawn when the proposal comes up for discussian again.
But mostly, it ignores two fundamentals in the French political and
cultural appreciation of the whole issue of copyright.

The first is the widely discussed, though less widely well-understood,
French 'particularity' about copyright, significantly known in French as
'droit d'auteur' (authors right). A somewhat simplistic ("rien n'est
simple" said Sempe in a famous cartooon serie) depiction would define
'droit d'auteur' as a moral right first, a commercial one second
(likewise, copyright would be defined as foremost of even exclusively

This has arosen the impression that French 'copyright' could be somehow
more accomodative to 'sharing' and other less profit oriented formats,
while at the same time protecting the genuine interests of creators beter.
Reality, alas, is almost the exact opposite, as commercial interests
(read: producers and other intermediaries) have hijacked the moral high
ground and are defending their monolpoly rents even more vociferously than
in the Anglo-Saxon world. And with success up to now, to witt the harsh
penalties that have rained down on individual 'transgressors', and their
'helpers', especially ISPs.

Strongly, but subtly linked to this, is a second, much less (afaik)
well-known factor: the institutionaly ingrained aversion of French culture
 for 'free' - as in 'beer'. Bizarely enough for a nation almost daily
bashed in the columns of the Wall Street Journal as economically
retrograde and capitalism feindish, France has a worship of the
remuneration for next to everything under the sun. It is not only that
"tout travail merite salaire" (each labor merits a fee) but the citizen is
also expected to affirm her status by demonstrating willingness and
ability to pay at all time (one can be arrested for vagrancy for want of
sufficient cash in the pocket). Profit here is not the point - even when
recovery costs exceed receipts gratuity is strongly rejected.

This aversion for what is automatically considered undeserved freebies and
its unreconstructed wordhip of the individual (but practically
non-existant), 'moral', author, make France largely impervious - and
hostile - to the increasingly global discourse about 'commons' (creative
or otherwise), and a likely candidate for the most restrictive and
oppressive legislation with regard to electronic copyright and 'defense'
of 'intellectual property' in general.

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