Friday, July 28, 2006

la pomme putréfiée

France, in a colossal protectionist blunder, has just passed the most restrictive copyright law in the world. In a bid to outdo the draconian US Digital Millienium Copyright Act and fulfill the ridiculous EUCD, the French law DADVSI aka "The Apple Law" (in English:"law on authors' rights and related rights in the information society") has been slithering its way through the legislative process. It gives copyright holders and DRM producers the power to close website under urgency procedures, ask ISPs to solve their problems and get information on users. The French Constitutional Court handed down a decision removing key liberties from software developers and internet users:
  • developers working on collaborative, research or file sharing software are no longer protected even if their software is intended for non-copyrighted works.
  • potential fines for violation are increased to a maximum of 5 years and half a million euros.
  • DRM producers can now 'obstacle a toute copie' or forbid any copy, including those made under fair use.
  • DRM producers (like Apple's iTunes Store) are required to license their technology to competitors deemed worthy by the bureaucracy set up to enforce all this.
Why this incredible desire to kill off any native software development sector? Most of the blame falls on the Minister for Culture, Donnedieu de Vabres, who is quite obviously in the pocket of industry lobby groups. Minister de Vabres' personal character became an issue with some critics of the law, who underlined the incongruity of having a politician convicted of money laundering give lessons of morality and enact criminal penalties against Internet users. Earlier the parliament had developed a radical new compension system known as a 'global license' which caused de Vabres to withdraw the original proposal and just submit all the parts he favored in a new addendum.
These later amendments introducing civil and criminal responsibility for authors of software used for illicit copying of protected works are widely known as the "Vivendi Universal" or "VU" amendments; that terminology was used by some members of Parliament, the reason for it being that, allegedly, these amendments were strongly pushed by Vivendi Universal, a major entertainment corporation. The bill still awaits signing by President Chirac. This reminds me of how the Internationale, a Communist anthem about workers abolishing private property, is still under copyright in France several decades after its author's death.

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