Wednesday, March 11, 2009

France, the second China (on the Internet)

It is nothing new that people in China are restricted on the Internet by the Great Firewall of China and other forms of Internet censorship, but surely this kind of thing would not happen in a democratic country. Not if some French citizens can have their way.

As I read in this article, France is poised to pass the toughest anti-P2P laws in the free world. Let me summarize them for you:
  1. If you want to use the Internet at home, you have to have state approved security software installed on your computer.
  2. If you want to have a wireless network in your home, it must be secured.
  3. If businesses (like a coffee shop) want to provide wireless Internet access to their customers, then they can only allow the customers to access state approved sites (called a whitelist).
  4. Graduated response/3-strikes program for alleged illegal file sharing:
    1. Accused once: email warning
    2. Accused twice: registered letter
    3. Accused three times: lose Internet access for 3 months to a year and put on a blacklist which prevents you from getting Internet access from any ISP in France
Can you believe what you just read?? I could not...that's why I had to blog about this.

If it is any consolation, there is technically a positive side to this law. As a compromise to the outrageous laws listed above, French DVDs will appear a couple months closer to their theatrical release date and movie and music groups have to drop much of their DRM. Fair trade?...I think not.

Let me comment on each of the listed laws.

1) Requiring state approved software in order to access the Internet is this most unbelievable of these laws. This law indirectly forces a state approved operating system as well. If your operating system does not have compatible, approved state security software, then you cannot go on the Internet. This law will stifle innovation in operating systems by not users of new operating system onto the Internet.

2) Requiring people to secure their wireless networks is like requiring people to buy and use a lock on their front door. Now I would hope that most people lock their doors at night, but beware, if you do not lock your door then...the police will come and arrest you for breaking the law?...

3) This law sounds exactly like the Great Firewall of China, except it is being erected by a democratic government. Let me quote the previous article: "Consumer group UFC Que Choisir compared the entire project to France's ill-fated Maginot Line [in French], [English by Google Translator], examples of World War I thinking that were famously bypassed early in World War II by blitzkrieging German panzer units." The French are repeating their past mistakes by trying to shield themselves from "the evils" on the Internet in a similar way as the communist government of China. France should get a better role model.

4) There are many countries that have considered or are already using a graduated response program. In principle, I do not have a problem with a graduated response program, but it absolutely has to be based on guilty verdicts from a court of law and not on the accusations of...anyone! My American ideals scream at me every time I read about laws like this. In America, we have two sayings: (1) we would rather let 10 guilty men go free then convict 1 innocent man and (2) you are innocent until proven guilty. Apparently in France (and too many other countries) the saying are (1) we do everything we can to punish the few at the expense of the many and (2) you are innocent until accused at which point you cannot ever be innocent again.

...And the previous author says that this law has a fair chance of passing. I used to think that the Internet would eventually be free (as in free culture), but if laws like this get passed, then anything could happen.