French subvert democatic process to pass draconian internet laws

Just saw on Rob @ dynamicorange, that the French have passed a law forcing ISPs to withdraw access based on accusations of IP infringement. Whether one agrees or disagrees  or even understands the issues involved, it appear this was forced through by a vote of 16 (out of 577) members of the French parliament at a time when the vote was not expected.  This reminds me of the notorious Shetland Times case back in the late 1990s, where the judgement  implied that simply, linking to another site infringed copyright and caused some sites to stop interlinking for fear of prosecution1, not to mention some early US patents that were granted because patent officers simply did not understand the technology and its implications2.

It would be nice to think that the UK had learnt from the Shetland case, but sadly not.  Earler this year the Government released its interim Digital Britain report. This starts well declaring “The success of our manufacturing and services industries will increasingly be defined by their ability to use and develop digital technologies“; however the sum total of its action plan to promote ‘Digital Content’ is to strengthen IP protection.  Whatever one’s views on copyright, file sharing etc., the fact that a digital economy is a global economy seems to have somehow been missed on the way; and this is the UK’s “action plan to secure the UK’s place at the forefront of innovation, investment and quality in the digital and communications industries3.

  1. See “Copyright battles: The Shetlands” @ Ariadne and “Scottish Court Orders Online Newspaper to Remove Links to Competitor’s Web Site” @ Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society.[back]
  2. and for that matter, more recent cases like the ‘wish list’ patent[back]
  3. UK Department for Culture, Media and Sport Press Release 106/08 “Digital Britain – the future of communications” 17th October 2008[back]

2 thoughts on “French subvert democatic process to pass draconian internet laws

  1. Unfortunately, you do not seem to have learnt about the “notorious” Shetland Times case either. It was not about the principle of linking, it was about the use of a link without clearly stating that the link took the user to an external website. The case was settled in the Times’ favour outside of court and resulted in a high-ranking National Union of Journalists’ leader losing his job after he wrongly backed the Shetland News’ case – having leapt to the same incorrect assumptions as you have.

  2. I’m not sure of the proper interpretation of the ruling, but certainly many organisations interpreted it as ‘no linking without permission’ and lawyers were horribly confused in their interpretations at the time (I recall attending seminars about it organised by our solicitors). Even the tight interpretation “use of a link without clearly stating that the link took the user to an external website” would prevent most of the links one sees in blogs including most of mine above 🙁

    I can’t recall the details, was it perhaps a site-in-frame case, but where the judgement didn’t distinguish this from ordinary hyperlinks, leading to the lawyers’ confusion?

Comments are closed.