27 January 2011

Fighting Openness with New Corporate "Rights"

The opposition between openness and so-called "rights" - which are typically state-granted monopolies like copyright and patents - becomes clearer by the day. But it is extraordinary is that those holding those monopolies think they need more - not least to fight recent minor gains in the field of openness and transparency. Here's some deeply troubling news:

To what extent will a right-wing French MP sympathetic to big business and French government's ongoing manoeuvres to create a "corporate confidentiality" label endanger critical reporting on corporations and business transparency?

Last week, French right-wing MP Bernard Carayon in an interview for the website Rue89 boldly stated "I claim that the State and private companies should also benefit from physical persons' right to privacy. [...] Companies should be allowed to define for themselves which information remains secret [...]."

Specifically:

Carayon wants to increase protection for "economic information" by introducing a three-year prison sentence and a 375.000€ fine for anyone found guilty of breaching “the confidentiality of information of an economic nature".

This would clearly have a chilling effect on efforts by whistle-blowers to expose corporate wrong-doing. But it gets worse, much worse.

The French government, already one of the chief enemies of a free and open Internet (think HADOPI) wants all of Europe to give business this new "right":

the French government, through the Inter-ministerial Delegation on Economic Intelligence (a high-level informal body gathering officials from the Ministries of Defence, Interior, Research, Budget, Environment, Foreign Affairs and the Economy, and that now directly reports to the French Presidency), is also working with a number of big French business lobbies (Medef, AFEP, CDSE, CGPME, Chambers of Commerce...) to design new legislation intended to create a new legal label, “corporate confidentiality”, to protect corporate information that is not covered by existing intellectual property laws. According to the head of this body, Olivier Buquen, this will cover “all strategic information, which can be, depending on the company, a client's database, a business plan or the details of a partnership […] we wish to simplify legal procedures for companies, and to create penalties that are severe enough to act as a deterrent. Our text will foresee legal proceedings against whoever steals or leaks a company's key information.”

For a land that once believed in liberty and equality, never mind the fraternity, these are shameful proposals, and confirm the present French government's pro-big business, anti-consumer attitudes. We need to fight these now before they get too far in the system and thus harder to root out - do read the whole of the excellent and detailed post from which these excerpts were taken. (Via @CountCulture.)

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4 comments:

caroline said...

We can always rebuild the Bastille.

Getting tired of all these attacks to our freedom of speech and to common sense.

glyn moody said...

@caroline: yes, beginning to look that way, sadly...

hugo said...

There are interesting developments on that in the US as well, with a case before the Supreme Court to know whether a company (AT&T here) has a personal right to privacy… the idea of corporate personhood…

http://www.scotusblog.com/2011/01/argument-preview-corporate-personhood-again/

glyn moody said...

@hugo: thanks - I was vaguely aware of these, but didn't have the details. Rather worrying development...next thing, they'll be getting rid of people's rights, to compensate...