11 May 2009

Has HADOPI Driven the French Insane?

One of the things I have been unable to understand is why the French, well known for their love of liberté, égalité, fraternité and all that jazz, seem hell-bent on getting rid of large chunks of said liberté in the digital sphere.

I refer, of course, to the infamous HADOPI law, which aims to deprive French citizens of their Internet connection purely on the say-so of French media companies. Doesn't sound like much égalité, fraternité there, does it? That's bad enough; but it seems that this bad legislation is leading to even worse knock-on consequences.

For example, it's emerged that the Head of the Web Innovation Centre for the French television company TF1 was fired for daring to write to his MP to express his opposition to the HADOPI law. Here's a good summary of what happened:

Yesterday’s Liberation carried a detailed report on the dismissal of a TF1 (Télévision française 1) employee for having expressed his opposition to the law. TF1 is a private TV network, whose boss Martin Bouygues is a close friend of Sarkozy. Jérôme Bourreau-Guggenheim was employed there in the web innovation unit. In February he wrote a personal mail to his MP, Françoise de Panafieu (UMP), expressing his opposition to the law and outlining his reasons as well as explaining his involvement in the sector. At the beginning of March he was summoned by his boss at TF1 online, Arnaud Bosom, who read his letter back to him, verbatim. Bosom explained that the letter had been forwarded to TF1’s legal adviser, Jean-Michel Counillon, by the Ministry of Culture! In April he was summoned to a disciplinary meeting and was sacked on April 16th.

Note that this was a personal opinion, expressed from home, and yet he lost his job because one of the strongest supporters of Sarkozy's drive against file sharing, Martin Bouygues, seems to think he has the right to tell his employees what to think, even outside work.

That's clearly outrageous, and I imagine that TF1 will regret the storm of protest it has provoked, and that maybe even a politician or two will find themselves in trouble. But other side-effects are more subtle – and more insidious.

The same site that carries the post about the TF1 sacking has this useful explanation of another knock-on effect of HADOPI:

An element of Hadopi which hasn’t received much or enough attention as yet, is a section which specifies steps that can be taken by computer users to ensure that they will not be found liable under the new regime. The following is a rough translation of the relevant sections, taken from the text of the law in its current state, as found here. Bear with me, it is torturous, some explanatory notes are added in bold…

« Art. L. 331-30. – After consultation with those developing security systems designed to prevent the illicit use of access to a communication service to the public online (internet!), or electronic communications, people whose business it to offer access to such a service as well as those companies governed by title 2 of the book (Intellectual Property Code) and rightsholders organizations (ie SACEM etc), the High Authority will make public the pertinent functional specifications that these measures must comprise so as to be considered, in its eyes, as valid exoneration of the responsibility of the access subscriber (internet user!) as defined in article L. 336-3.

At the end of a certified evaluation procedure, and taking into consideration conformity with the specifications set out in the previous paragraph and their effectiveness, the High Authority will issue a list certifying the security software whose use will validly exonerate the access holder (internet user!) from their responsibility under the terms of article L. 336-3. This certification will be periodically revised.

Mmmh. So what the law intends is to set up a meeting between security software vendors, antipiracy organizations and ISPs to decide what software you need to install on your machine, so that they can be sure that you behave yourself. If you don’t fancy installing their device, then you’ll just have to swallow any liability consequent to someone else using your machine or accessing your connection.

Now, one aspect not evident from the legalistic mumbo-jumbo above is that this spyware may well not support GNU/Linux:

The Assembly also postponed a handful of amendments that sought to exempt the subscriber if the system is not interoperable with software security, with the first assumption that it uses a system that is too old. An "old" Windows with expensive software installed on, for example. Or a free software ...

An amendment sought to nip in the bud the potential for discrimination technological and financial background of interoperability ( "the means of secure, freely available to consumers, are interoperable). But again, it was rejected by the rapporteur implacably Franck Riester and the Minister of Culture, Christine Albanel.

Now, normally I would assume that good sense would prevail, and that this casting into the outer darkness of GNU/Linux users would be rectified by those rational French people (after all, France is one of the biggest users of free software in the world). But given the rampant insanity that has broken out around HADOPI, I'm no longer confident that is the case. Instead, I fear that France is about to consign itself into the digital dark ages. Quel dommage.

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22 comments:

Inquiet à Paris said...

This story has only illustrated the strong links between the executive and the corporate media (N. Sarkozy has caused the dismissal of the editor of the Paris-Match magazine, all guests on the TF1 newscasts were pro-Hadopi).

It was just a slipup of a low-level public agent, who most likely wanted to have correct marching orders from his actual master, ie the corporate world (the French Minister, C. Albanel seemed not be aware of the initiative).


One very interesting report would be about the current relations between the executive and the press, but unfortunately there is not a chance this will happen soon (it is easier for the media in France to attack weak ministers, like Rachida Dati)

glyn moody said...

Thanks for the interesting backgound information.

julien said...

France is THE biggest open-source users
http://www.redhat.com/about/where-is-open-source/activity/

You reviewed it quite well...
But you neglected to mention that there is a strong french internet activists, gathering all over france, doing flash mobs, informing people of the danger of such extremist law...

I live in this country (what a shame)

glyn moody said...

@julien: yes, you're right, it's hard for me to gauge the strength of the resistance because like most resistance, it's happening on the margins. I just hope it succeeds.

philippe said...

France has always been Schyzophenic about freedom;)

So governments are allowed to make as much laws they want and peolpe to not follow strictly the rules

About this one anyway , Eurpoe has already say no, and most peole know tha it is impossible to put it in application, so a lot of people just dont care.

glyn moody said...

@philippe: well, the European Parliament has said "no" three times, but the national governments keep pushing back: the whole thing is still in conciliation. It's not over yet, I fear....

philippe said...

Glynn: i m french and living in France;)
People will not follow the rule anyway.

a/ ther s no way to survey 20 millions of computers.

b/ they will erase sthe spy, or use linux - mandriva is going to be really popular if necessary .

C: if they really try to apply all this, they will get so much un popularity that they will let die the whole thing.
Everybody know it. The governement knows it. people in France also.


All this is just a big theater.

I m 51 i ve seen those kind of things all my life.

glyn moody said...

So what do you think will happen? The law will pass unmodified and be ignored, or be modified, or not pass at all?

julien said...

we'll see this afternoon at 15h30 ;o)
http://www.assemblee-nationale.fr/13/seance/seancedirect.asp

glyn moody said...

Thanks.

Zaf said...

Hi,
I'm french and a free software user (at work and at home) so you can imagine I've been following this for a while now. I'm glad this is something that's talked about outside of the country, that means a lot more people are probably waiting to see what happens.

The vote is today, so we'll know in a few hours if the law is passed or not. What really bothers me is that this is only the beginning, whether this law gets passed or not, there are others just waiting in line. If you read french : http://www.jmp.net/index.php/internet/dangers/257-apres-lhadopi-la-loppsi-lan-i-de-linternet-sans-majuscule .

Basically this entry talks about a project of a law that would force the Internet Providers to ban a list of websites provided by the Ministry of Interior.

It's sad considering we came up with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but France is slowly turning into China...

glyn moody said...

@Zaf: thanks for the link. It's sad to see France joining the censorship club, along with UK, Germany, Australia etc.

philippe said...

Everybody knows it is illegal to download Office, Photoshop, the last lady Gaga album the 39 seasons of Startrck.
Everybody does.

I do not care much if they vote yes or no.

When 30 millions peoples do not respect a law, there is no law.

It will be through Linux, bit torrent or whatever technical bias.

And it will become a national sport.

glyn moody said...

@philippe: certainly, it's true that a law that is ignored is a bad law, but it's worrying that it can even be passed in the first place.

Curtis said...

The reading has passed - onward to the Senators by Thursday it seems.

http://www.ecrans.fr/Hadopi-adopte-sans-surprise-a-l,7198.html

Curtis

glyn moody said...

@Curtis: thanks for the update and sad news....

Zaf said...

what really bugs me is the fact that no one really cared until the internet allowed thousands of people to share high amounts of data (ie until 2 or 3 years ago). So my question is : when an action is considered to be a "crime" depending on the number of people doing it, well, is it really a crime ? Or is it just really convenient to see it that way ?

5 or 6 years ago people were making money burning CDs and later DVDs for friends. No one really cared then. Now people are freely sharing the same things, and suddenly it's a huge concern, just because there are more of them...But that's not even what this law is really about. Because the government has proven us that it doesn't care about culture or artists (otherwise it would spend the 70 million € on something constructive). This is about controlling information and putting everyone under surveillance.

For instance : my dad's a medical doctor and a writer/journalist. He has a website that contains (among other things) papers on medical issues and stuffs. There is a law that was passed a little while ago that forces sites that talk about medicine to have a link directing to the home page of the Ministry of Health... It's just ridiculous !

I recently acquired a copy of 1984. I hadn't read it and thought I should probably get it while I'm still allowed to read what I want...

glyn moody said...

I think you're right: this is about control. Counterfeit CDs don't offer any threat to the way the music business is run - and certainly not to the ruling classes. Digital music - the Internet - is a threat to both.

Zaf said...

I think this is about so much more than "illegal" use of the Internet really. I think this is about building the French equivalent to the Great Firewall of China and having our own "personalized" version of Google...

They're trying to control something they don't understand : basically the possibility for people to exchange information freely, anonymously, and with unlimited access.

It's even more insane when you realize that France probably has one of the most accessible Internet there is : I have an internet connection, a tv service (incidentally, my tv-box provided by my ISP can act as an ftp server and can play pretty much every video format there is, including HD divx) and a phone line all in one with free calling to about 50 countries (as long as it's a land line) including the US, Canada and most European countries. All of this for 30 € a month !

That's cheap ! Oh and they just connected my building with optical fiber and guess what : the price is not going to change and there will be no additional charges for changing the modem and stuff.

So all I'm saying is, if this was just about music and entertainment, they'd be doing the same thing they do with tv : make you pay a tax and give it back to the authors. I wouldn't mind paying 20 € more for my internet connection if I knew it was going to them...

It pisses me off that every time we get more advanced in some field, some Neanderthal with a bigger stick sees it as an opportunity to oppress people.

I'm sorry if I seem a bit too intense, I'm just really pissed off...

glyn moody said...

Yes, that's a good point: connectivity is excellent compared to UK, for example. Madness.

Science Fiction said...

French science fiction writers fight for freedom !

In English :

http://knowfuture.wordpress.com/2009/04/30/sci-fi-against-hadopi-who-will-control-the-future/

En français :

http://generationscience-fiction.hautetfort.com/archive/2009/04/25/qui-controlera-le-futur.html

Versión española :

http://generationsf.ucoz.com/index/0-30

Versione italiana :

http://generationsf.ucoz.com/index/0-31

glyn moody said...

Impressive - thanks.