Christine Treguier on Wed, 24 Feb 1999 05:09:03 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Altern suite

Here is a piece written by Andy Oram on the Altern Attack. Real
english not like mine which will help you to better understand the
issue in France.


>                              by Andy Oram
>                     American Reporter Correspondent
>         CAMBRIDGE, MASS. -- Like the biblical Jacob, modern
> governments are wrestling with anonymity. Jacob's adversary (described
> in the scripture merely as a "man") gives him both a wound and a
> blessing. When Jacob begs, "Tell me your name!" the man retorts, "Why
> do you ask my name?" and departs. Four thousand years later, we still
> find in anonymity elements both harmful and liberating.
>         On February 10, an anonymous Web publication brought down a
> popular benefactor in France. Valentin Lacambre, who made a living
> registering and managing domain names, had set up a server called
> Altern that offered free Web sites. Over 47,000 people took advantage
> of his offer, submitting every imaginable sort of political, cultural,
> and other content.
>         Naturally, a few illegal fish swam into this bouillabaisse,
> but Lacambre tried to act responsibly in ridding his server of
> them. "The police come regularly to ask me for information," he told a
> ZDNet reporter, "and I give it to them."
>         Nobody really knows why this delicate balance failed to
> protect Altern and Lacambre last year when the famous model Estelle
> Hallyday sued him for violations of privacy. Nineteen photos of her in
> a state of undress -- popular material that people have reported
> seeing elsewhere -- were found on one of the Web sites on his server.
>         In France, as in the United States, courts have ruled fairly
> consistently that access providers should not be held responsible for
> content placed on their servers by other people. It was the supposed
> anonymity of the Web site that stripped Lacambre bare of this
> protection.
>         On June 9, 1998, according to Meryem Marzouki of
> civil-liberties group IRIS, a court ordered Lacambre to remove the
> Hallyday photos but stopped short of making any judgment about his
> liability. The court did set a dangerous precedent, though, by forcing
> him "to put in place means that would render impossible any diffusion
> of the photographic images."  In other words, as Marzouki says, he
> would have "to check each day, each hour, each minute, all his 40,000
> hosted web sites, looking for Estelle Hallyday photographs."
>         Lacambre appealed the decision on the basis that the guarantee
> was impossible to achieve. On February 10, a court found that he could
> be held responsible for the violation of privacy because the Web site
> was anonymous.
>         Certainly the Web site with photos was unlabeled. But as I've
> explained, it was far from anonymous in the sense that Lacambre could
> have revealed the pornographer's identity at any time.  Neither
> Hallyday nor the courts asked him to,
>         How does one attain anonymity? You can use an "anonymizer"
> service that strips away identifying information from electronic mail,
> but no posting you make to a mailing newsgroup in that manner has the
> permanence of a Web site. Most anonymizers keep information on your
> true origin anyway, so that replies can be directed back to you.
>         Some computers on the Internet have poor enough security for
> individuals to connect freely and send electronic mail without
> revealing their actual location. But because "spammers" (senders of
> unsolicited bulk email) search out and exploit these sites heavily,
> their administrators frequently are told of the problem and tighten
> their access.
>         Is a truly anonymous Web site possible in the same fashion as
> an electronic mail message? In theory, but not in practice.
>         To allow people to hide their locations, a system
> administrator would have to create a world-writable directory (meaning
> anybody can put data there) and allow anonymous connections (as many
> FTP sites do already). So long as the system administrator refused to
> log connections, no trace would remain of who uploaded files.
>         But the result would be that people would overwrite files they
> didn't like, and that some who disapprove of anonymous services would
> immediately and repeatedly fill the server's disk with garbage. No,
> anonymous sites are not practicable. It is not possible on the Web to
> wrench the socket of someone's thigh and just walk away.
>         Lacambre's case has been publicized by IRIS, APRIL
> (Association for the Promotion and Research of Free Information), and
> many other political and cultural supporters, winning him a great deal
> of political sympathy and even pledges of financial aid. An impressive
> 198 organizations -- let alone individuals -- have signed an online an
> online IRIS petition, and another 12,000 a simple petition saying
> " should be able to continue managing free Internet sites."
> For many of these activists, including IRIS and APRIL, the key issues
> are freedom of expression and the survival of a "non-commercial
> Internet."
>         Anonymity on the Web, which has many social benefits, is first
> to go under this court ruling. No one has defended anyone's right to
> display nude photographs of a famous person. But whistle-blowers and
> protesters against political repression, who can hand out leaflets
> anonymously on the street, should have the right to make use of the
> immensely more powerful online medium.
>         After anonymity, the next Internet institution threatened by
> the court decision is free Web service, or even a public Web service
> of any sort. How can a provider ensure that thousands of clients
> identify themselves clearly on every Web page? The degree of
> surveillance required by the court decision makes the framers of the
> Communications Decency Act look like Jean-Jacques Rousseau by
> comparison. And indeed, Lacambre has provisionally removed his 47,000
> sites rather than subject himself to the requirement that each site be
> checked continually.
>         In the United States, where the fear of copyright infringement
> rivals the fear of pornography in driving debate over the liability of
> Internet providers, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 has
> erected an acceptable compromise in rights and responsibilities. A
> tangle of rules protect universities, service providers, and other
> sites offering Internet services to clients from liability for those
> clients' copyright infringement. In return, the service provider has
> to register with the Copyright Office so that a copyright holder
> complaining of infringement can easily make contact.
>         I do not necessarily offer the Copyright Act as a model for a
> French solution, but the ruling of February 10 shows that something
> needs to be done there to restore an open Internet. It is ironic that
> the ruling cites a "violation of privacy" in order to squelch one of
> the most valuable sources of privacy, the ability to express oneself
> anonymously on the Web.
>         On a mailing list in support of Lacambre, many protesters
> point to another irony: that a French court delivered a blow against
> the promulgation of Internet access during French preparations for a
> "Festival of the Internet" to take place from March 19 through
> 21. Punning on the French for "Festival of the Internet" (Fete de
> l'Internet), a site called Mini-Rezo lamented attacks on Lacambre and
> another Internet site in an article called "Defeat of the Internet."
> The article traces the ruling to a mentality that "considers the
> liberty of expression dangerous...the widely circulated myth that this
> liberty is totally uncontrollable and left to criminal elements."
>         The circumstances of the ruling have led many political
> observers to deduce that it was politically motivated. They point to
> the omission of the natural and basic step of asking Lacambre to
> remove the material or identify its owner, to the staggering
> restitution demanded -- 400,000 Francs, typical for a case against a
> tabloid newspaper but not a small entrepreneur earning 10,000 Francs a
> year -- and to distortions of fact in the ruling.  For intance, the
> court insisted that Lacambre profited from his Web sites, even though
> he was offering them for free and never required advertising or any
> other revenue-generating compensation.
>         Activist Christine Treguier lays out the political battle as
> follows: "Now that France has released cryptography and big business
> can start up, they (the authorities, the multinationals, the private
> businesses) want to clean the yard. Move away, you dirty, chaotic
> internauts."
>         There are plenty of precedents for digging up publishing
> infractions as a weapon of political censorship. In France, we can go
> back to the 1857 in the Second Empire, and the trial against the
> liberal journal La Revue de Paris.
>         A government prosecutor snared the journal for serializing a
> novel that was "an outrage to the public and religious morals." But
> most observers knew that the journal's real crime was to publish
> leftist opponents of the regime. The Revue had already received two
> warnings for this, and was to be shut down the permanently following
> year on the charge that it encouraged sedition.
>         The morality trial proved to be simple buffoonery, ending with
> all defendents acquitted. It succeeded only in drawing the public's
> attention to the daring views in the novel being condemned -- Madame
> Bovery -- and the talents of author Gustav Flaubert, who conducted a
> tiresomly conventional lifestyle.
>         While I doubt that any of the 47,000 site on Altern contained
> work of the quality of Madame Bovary, I would like the chance to
> explore what these earnest souls have to offer and I wish that
> Lacambre had been vindicated like Flaubert.  Limits are acceptable on
> the absolute concealment of identity, but the infractions of a few
> should not be grounds for denying the rights of all to free and even
> anonymous expression.
>                               -30-
> Andy Oram is moderator of the Cyber Rights mailing list for Computer
> Professionals for Social Responsibility, and an editor at O'Reilly &
> Associates. Starting on February 24, the piece can also be found online
> (along with suitable hypertext links and an index of related articles)
> at:
> The article can be redistributed online, with author and newspaper
> attributions intact, for non-profit use.  For printing or commercial
> use, please contact Joe Shea, publisher of the American Reporter, at
>                         *        *        *
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
> Andy Oram  O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.        email:
>   Editor   90 Sherman Street                     phone: (617) 499-7479
>            Cambridge, MA 02140-3233                fax: (617) 661-1116
>            USA                
X-Mozilla-Status: 0009:  The Bug in the Seven Modules,  Code the Obscure
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