Thursday, December 29, 2011

A copyright-obsessed French government gets a taste of its own medicine

As you might expect when your president is married to a singer, the French government takes a fairly totalitarian line on copyright. The infamous HADOPI law effectively enables citizens to be prohibited from contracting Internet access with an ISP on the basis of copyright infringement complaints, apparently with such complaints centering around access from a particular IP address.

So it would be slightly embarrassing if it turned out that IP addresses belonging to the president's official residence and a French government ministry turned up in a database of illegal downloads. Unfortunately, this is precisely what appears to have happened: records of apparently "illegal" downloads from the French Ministère de la Culture and Élysée (official presidential residence and offices) have turned up in the databases of, a site publishing records from (among other sources) various public BitTorrent servers.

So, should we conclude that a poverty-stricken Sarkozy has had to resort to using public resources to download illegal copies of his favourite flicks and tracks in these times of austerity? Should we now engage in month-long trial to determine whether we can prove beyond reasonable doubt that Mr Sarkozy did or did not download that dodgy low-quality MP4 of La Cage aux folles? Should the Élysée now spend public money on a lengthy witch-hunt to establish which petty office clerk or work experience temp is responsible for this shocking infringement of some random fat cat's right to stuff his coffers a little fuller?

Well, I would suggest not-- but that's the point. Hopefully this revelation may help the French government to understand people's concerns about the glib connection that they are insistent to draw between an IP address in a database and the download in question having definitely occurred under the actions of a particular person, and to weigh up the pros and cons of establishing totalitarian means in an attempt to enforce the practically unenforceable with arguable benefit to society.

1 comment:

Neil Coffey said...

P.S. Here's an interesting example of what happens when copyright law gets out of control: patients potentially put at risk because of a copyright squabble.