Law in the Internet Society

The Global License :Smoke and mirrors.

October 2011 : Time to do a check up.

It's a good idea to write a first sentence that pulls the reader into your subject and your view of it. This one is passive, generic, and somewhat obscure,

France has been trying to sue children for the past three years under HADOPI legislation,

You don't need to explain HADOPI for all the non-French readers who have no idea what it is. Because this is a wiki, you can just link to something that defines and explains HADOPI, so anyone who needs that information can simply click. Not linking and not explaining, however, is not feasible: readers who don't know what you're talking about will promptly give up.

and apparently it is not working the way the french government expected it to work. Not efficient, too burdensome. Fair enough, let's come up with something else. As the next presidential elections will be held in June 2012, the Socialist Party running for presidency is getting ready and is already considering a new project : The Global Licence. Socialists (few of them though) have been standing against HADOPI and proposed, when the DADVSI legislation was adopted, this Global Licence thing.

Here's a statement of historical development. You'd want to give people a link to something that explains the acronym DADVSI anyway, and here's your chance to link something that will give the backstory to the proposal.

Here is the way it would work. In order to "compensate" authors, each and everyone of us, will pay in between 5 and 6 euros a month as an extra on our Internet bills. This "compensation" will be included in the price we pay to Internet Service Providers.

Assuming everyone pays ISPs?

That way, we'll be able to download whatever we want, without being worried about the fines we would have had to pay under HADOPI legislation. Sounds good ? The idea came out when discussions on DADVSI law took place in 2005 in the French Parliament. The GL had been rejected at that time.

Second time you've said this, and you could skip the repetition, saving space, but also the second time you haven't linked anything for someone who wants to read up.

The idea was to legalize P2P exchanges. Internet users will then pay a fixed price to Internet carriers. The money collected would go to "collecting societies" some kind of SACEM (the equivalent of the ASCAP in the US). The money will then be dispatch among authors. Right now P2P exchanges are not legal under Hadopi law.

Not quite right. What is not legal under HADOPI is copyright infringement, including unlicensed peer-to-peer sharing of copyrighted works. All the non-infringing peer-to-peer sharing of information that happens in the Internet, which is most of human digital activity because the Internet is peer-to-peer communication, is still legal. So is use of tools like Bittorrent to conduct licensed distribution of copyrighted works. (We members of the human race share petabytes of, e.g., works under free software and Creative Commons licenses every day, and all of that would be or is legal even in hexagonal Sarkozyland.)

The dispatch would be done according to the "traffic," meaning that the artists would be compensated according to how much people downloaded their work. That sounds fair right ?

That way we forget about HADOPI, we download and upload freely (well for few euros at least) and artists get compensated. Why not ? But the questions is how is the dispatch of the money going to be handled ? Pro GL say that it would be enough to calculate the traffic of each artist. So the more an artist is shared and downloaded the more money he or she will get. The calculation will be based on popularity. What we are told now is that this system will enable small or unknown artists to get something, even a little bit. No more intermediaries (record company, the music industry in general). Authors would get proper compensation, and that is the most important thing right ? Here we go. The project is obviously designed to protect unknown or non famous artists and we get rid of Hadopi at the same time. At least that what we are being told. Who is going to calculate the traffic, how is it going to be calculated ? Does it mean that exchanges will be monitored and controlled somehow (more than right now) ? Who will control ? Internet providers, independent societies ? Intrusive surveillance of the flows of datas (already happening but that would become somehow official in this case) ? The calculation would be made according to quantity, the compensation would be done in terms of consumption, not in terms of quality. Again, this new structure would be based on consumption, the key word. And what if I'm encrypting my flow of datas ?

Why, what if? The actual point you are setting up but not making here is that the system would depend on the maintenance of an insecure and completely monitored net. In other words, government is proposing to tie its desire to monitor everything to a scheme that benefits copyright industries and collecting society parasites disguised under the apparently unquestionable rectitude of compensating artists. You could just say that.

Surprinsingly the debate around the GL has focused on authors and compensation. Compensating artists seems to be an obssession for the GL advocates. And they try to sell us this concept of GL, because it is fair, because it is right, and because that the way it should be. We cannot turn down a project that protects artists right ?

But in the end this looks like just another tax. No one in the debate, whether experts or politicians have asked themselves : can people pay for it, do the people want to pay for it ? Right, it is just few more euros on your Internet bill. But believe it or not some can't just afford to add those 5 or 6 euros ! And why would they anyway. It is not even about about much we will pay, it is about paying for it. Again, we pay or access to culture. The only concerns they have is : would artist be fairly compensated ? who's going to pay for calculating the traffic ? I hear those concerns. But what I believe is that as long as we don't want to understand that the structure of all this is wrong we are not going to do anything good. The music industry collapses : face it. The way we access culture is changing : deal with it ! Thinking within a structure of intellectual property does not help at all. You want culture, then pay for it that the way it works now. Edouard Barreiro, representative of UFC Que Choisir (a french consumer association) said that "people would be more willing to access culture because they would pay for it." New philosophical statement : I pay, therefore I want. Is that all about it ?

No, it's just trade association bullshit. Why bother even quoting it? You can prove that most trade association propaganda is self-evident crap, but that's not a big victory. Your own announcement up above that the owners have to live with the extinction of their industries is pretty much the same thing, after all. They're not going to. Realism says you're not going to make culture free to everybody by mere pronouncement any more than they're going to be able to keep it proprietary by slinging bullshit at press conferences. The actual situation is a conflict of incommensurable forces. One of them is wealthy and powerful in the present, stocked up with purchased lawmakers in all parties, possessing expensive press agentry and unlimited resources to make propaganda. The other is weak in the present, consisting of anarchists making technology and a new style of politics, possessing the allegiance of a large fraction of the people who will be running the world in twenty-five years. Right now, the owners behave strongly and try—unsuccessfully—to control the future. Later, with an infrastructure of technical freedom heavily embedded in the entirety of global capitalism, our young colleagues grow up and take over the world in the ordinary course of demographic replacement, sweeping away the owners' institutions just as decisively as the 20th century swept away the institutions of the ancien régime.

I do not believe this is the solution. It's hard for France to get away from the "droit d'auteur" culture. I don't think we need a GL, we need a new economic model. The thinking pattern behind GL is still the same as the one behind Hadopi, art is perceived as a marchandise. Same as Hadopi. But I guess the GL is just a way to sweeten the pill. The fact is that neither the Socialists nor the Conservatives understand that the music industry is slowly dying. No one is talking about patronage, donation is a bad word in my country. The GL is just a honey trap, as inconsistent and unfair as Hadopi is, but very well disguised under what my potential future government calls fairness.

It might be interesting to inquire what difference it makes what "France" wants. "France" can set the price at which people buy packet-moving services. "France" can make claims about what technology is available or usable by citizens, but only to the extent that it can fulminate prohibitions that may or may not actually reflect what happens. It cannot, as you point out at the beginning, actually implement, with any sufficiently tolerable expenditure of resources, something like the "three strikes, you're out" mechanism of HADOPI; its bluff on that subject has now been called. Isn't "France" just another clapped-out fundamentally weakened system of political corruption, about to blow its banks and its postwar dream of civilizing the Teutons for the ninety-seventh time since the Gothic invasions? When all is said and done, who cares what "France" says on this subject? Everyone can see quite clearly that the rules make no actual difference at all to what music people listen to, or what films they watch, even inside the hexagon during the closing hours of the Fifth Republic.

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r2 - 23 Oct 2011 - 15:42:51 - EbenMoglen
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