There will be in France this week a vote at the French Assembly to pass a law, called Loi DADVSI. That law would be the implementation at the French level of an European directive made a few years back and called EUCD, to “harmonise certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the information society”. Let alone the fact the directive was made in 2000/2001, a time when the Web was not spreaded as much as it is now, meaning that people couldn’t foresee how the medium would have been used hence couldn’t discuss its validity, the directive introduces in Europe the WIPO Copyright Treaty defined in 1996.
Overall, the goal of that law, and also the European directive, is to define legal measures to the right you have when you acquire contents such as music and movies. The root of the problem raised by the industry is that they have lost millions of euros during the last few years due to the fact people are not responsible anymore (p2p, CD burning, etc.). The industry wants to be able to clearly state “you are breaking a law”.
From that point of view most people agree with the industry. It sounds fair to make sure the machine works correctly enough and that all parties respect each other. If people stop buying CDs, the music industry will have to drop artists that don’t sell well. Sounds like a logical point so far (even if unethical).
However, this is not something new. Twenty years ago, people could copy their tapes onto other tapes. Ten years ago people could copy their CDs to other CDs. So what’s new? Well the industry says the volume and the capacities of the users to copy and share contents have exponentially increased. Besides, the industry says that now copying is without loss of quality. Well I could reply that if I compress a music file from a CD to a Vorbis file then I have a loss due to the compression but let’s not be picky.
The law is very strict and is much larger than just the distribution of contents over the Internet. In its current state, the law would also limit dramatically the users rights when he owns a DVD or a CD. For instance, say you buy a song on iTune or else, the law specifies the provider of the content should use a software system to limit the number of times you can copy to a different computers that song or even track down what you do with the song you bought. To me it sounds like you don’t own the content anymore but you rent it. As a side note, there are exceptions to the law itself but Public Libraries and the Education are not part of them, meaning they will have to follow the law the same way.
Another point the law insists on is that anyone who would provide a software and its sources to workaround such limitations would be outlaw. It means for instance that a project such as VLC would break the law. This is of course very bad for the Open Source industry, which is not that bad in France.
So why is the industry shooting itself in the foot? In my opinion, the bottom line is the fact the media industry has not been able to follow the pace and their business plan cannot work anymore. I mean when Gutenberg created the printing system, the whole writing “business” had no choice but to follow evolution. Of course, some people who were making money on the fact they could write lost part of the power but in the end people took benefit out of it. So isn’t it what’s happening now?
I can’t believe the industry is not behind part of that law project. However instead of changing their business model (which of course could take years) and being able to evolve they are simply shooting in their own feet. We pay the price of their surgery.
Anyway, for those who believe France is better than others. No it’s not. France follows the same rules as others and bends the same way. It’s just another case of the Capitalism system playing by the rules it writes and changes when needed.