I was down at the sumptuous French National Assembly (A building that looks like a Greek temple from the outside and a livingroom overdosed with red velvet on the inside) yesterday because a group of latenight legislators this week amended a bill to include a global tax for people wishing to share files over the Internet.
Once a user (an "internaut" in French) has paid the fee, that internaut is free to share music or movies on the basis that they are for personal use only.
Result: Hey presto! Kazaa would suddenly be legal in France. What is considered piracy in other parts of the world would be available here in France.
Also: Artists would recieve payouts from the tax money raised (Systems for copyright taxation are not unusual in Europe. Germany, for example, imposes a 12 euro copyright levy on the sale of each personal computer purchased.)
Needless to say, the music and movie industry people were not terribly pleased.
Those AGAINST include the French Rambo!
"This law throws us back to before the French Revolution," said Alain Dorval, an actor who dubbed Sylvester Stallone for the Rambo series of films. "France invented property rights for artists in 1791 and now this Parliament wants to vote them away."
"Since the pay TV channel Canal Plus finances a huge portion of the cinema production, an attack on pay TV undermines the structure for the creation of cinema," Seydoux said. "To be in cinema you must be optimistic and I am optimistic these amendments will fail."
Not only are the amendments bad, but their implication is dangerous, said Michel Gomez, an official with the Association of Directors and Producers. "The message sent by this law is that creative works can be bought for free," he said. "This may be very seductive to Internet users, but it will bring down the structure of entire creative industries."
The arguments FOR:
Patrick Bloche, a pipe-smoking Socialist deputy representing Paris, who was a co-author of the amendments: "We are trying to bring the law up to date with reality." "It is wrong to describe the eight million French people who have downloaded music from the Internet as delinquents."
"We are only leading in a direction that is inevitable for the law everywhere," said Christian Paul, a Socialist deputy who was also a co-author of the amendments. "You will see other European nations adopting such laws in the future because they just make sense."
"Artists currently get no money from peer-to-peer sharing, and with this fee at least they would get some," said Aziz Ridouan, a 17-year old high school student who has fought for Internet rights as president of the Association of Audiosurfers. "If the government and industry attack downloaders aggressively, we will just go underground with encryption and all chance of revenue will be lost."
Ridouan added that the amendments would finally legalize behavior that has become commonplace among young Internet users. "We need protection. It is not nice to feel like you are acting illegally," he said. "They cannot use the law to stop people sharing music just because the music industry missed out on the digital revolution."
If this blog-ization of the article is not clear, check out the full IHT version here.
Which arguments have the most merit and can creative industries survive in the face of peer-to-peer?