16 June 2009

(Eric Pfanner)

"It was the French equivalent of former U.S. Senator Ted Stevens’ description of the Internet as 'a series of tubes', which made him the subject of endless mockery on the Web. In a video shot for an online news site, French legislators were asked whether they were familiar with peer-to-peer file-sharing technology. 'No', one lawmaker responded, rolling his eyes. 'I speak French. Excuse me'. While France has often prided itself on its contrarian approach to information technology — remember the Minitel? — the response summed up the ham-handedness of the latest digital initiative by the French government. The video appeared this spring, at the height of debate about a plan by President Nicolas Sarkozy to set up a government agency to disconnect persistent copyright pirates from the Internet. The proposal, approved by Parliament last month after an earlier setback, was shot down last week by the country’s highest judicial review body, the Constitutional Council, which ruled that it violated constitutional guarantees of free speech and the presumption of innocence. Only a court of law is entitled to sever Internet connections, the council ruled.

The decision was a big setback for the music and movie industries, which wanted other countries to follow the French lead and impose similar systems, called 'three strikes' because cutoffs would have been preceded by two warnings to copyright cheats. It is particularly bad timing for Britain, where the government is to set out its digital strategy this week. It has indicated that it favors a softer approach. According to reports, the government wants to slow pirates’ Web connections, making it hard to share big media files, rather than cutting off access. Had the French law been cleared to go into effect, it might have provided some cover for the British government. Now Britain will serve as a test of how far the authorities can go in their efforts to protect copyrighted material. Every new effort to crack down on file-sharing seems to embolden groups devoted to an unfettered Internet.

The European Parliament has consistently maintained that Internet access is a fundamental right, at a time when communications, commerce and culture are shifting into the digital realm. After Sweden tightened its anti-piracy laws and sentenced to jail the founders of a site called The Pirate Bay, the popularity of a political group dedicated to free file-sharing soared. The Pirate Party has won a seat in the European Parliament, and similar groups are springing up elsewhere in Europe. What all this shows, if more evidence was needed, is that an anti-piracy strategy based largely on enforcement is bound to fail. In the United States, the recording industry has backed away from a legal campaign against file-sharers, realizing that suing its biggest fans is not a great marketing strategy. Now the U.S. music and movie industries are moving to make more content available legally.

In Europe, such efforts have generally lagged. Yes, online media sites like the BBC’s iPlayer, which allows users to watch television programs from the previous week, are hugely popular. But you can’t watch the iPlayer outside Britain because of complicated rights restrictions. In France, meanwhile, the government recently moved to reduce to four months the legally mandated 'window' between the release of a movie in cinemas and on home video. That is down from six months for DVDs, and seven and a half months for video on demand. But it is still a long time, during which piracy flourishes. Other European countries have similar windows in an effort to protect cinemas and moviemakers who rely on subsidies derived from box-office sales. People are still going to the movies. But when they stay home, they are increasingly turning to pirate sources, rather than waiting several months to watch the latest movie. If consumers can figure out peer-to-peer, perhaps it is time for lawmakers to do the same". (aqui)

nota: ler aqui também.



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