Christine Treguier on Mon, 5 Jun 2000 17:25:00 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Liberty of communication law in France : it is urgent to stop

Please circulate widely

Liberty of communication law in France : it is urgent to stop

Political will or wrong analysis, the Trautmann law project, relative to
audiovisual communication companies, also pretends to rule the citizens ‘right
to public expression on the net, by forcing them to identify beforehand. The
public democratic debate preceeding this type of decision has not taken place,
and the opponants now ask to purely suppress the incriminated sub-amendment and
postpone the discussion to the fall.

The law project labelled « liberty of communication », has no vocation to rule «
public expression » of physical persons, but to define the principles of «
public communication » relative to audiovisual and internet medias companies.
Nevertheless, on mai 29th, the Senate maintained the sub-amendment 43-6-4
introduced by the Assembly on mars 22 without any public debate. It imposes to
any physical person wanting to publish on the web, but also on newsgroups,
mailing lists and foras, to decline their identity – name, firstname and adress
– or directly on their webpage, or to their service provider. If not, the
penalty is 6 month jail and 50 000F.

Public expression has never been submitted , since the french constitution
exists, to any obligation of identification beforehand, and it can only be
restricted if there is a constituted trouble to public order. More, France would
be in contradiction with several european Directives, in particular the one
relative to « electronic trade » voted on may 4th, which all require to respect
the principles of freedom of expression and protection of personnal datas.

How did the french government fall in the trap ? They seem to be worried about
the new possibilities of massive public publishing on the net. « You tell me
it"s possible to trace people, but what proofs do we have » asks Christian Paul,
charged by Prime minister of a preparatory mission on internet co-regulation.
Despite the experts reports collected and the fact that since years, the authors
of « illegal » contents have alwas been found and sanctionned, they refuse to
accept the fact that the net protocols do embed the means to identify the author
of a message via the IP number, date and time, and phone number, datas collected
and kept by the providers and revealed to the request of a judicial authority.

Carefully reading the debates, three major reasons appear : « cyber- criminality
», offenses to « right owners » (copyrights and intellectual property) and «
slander », by that understand private opinions, critics, satirical writings or
any undiscreet revelations that could be done by citizens, unhappy users or
employees etc.
Concerning cybercrimes or hacking, identification is absolutely non-efficient ;
everybody knows hackers hide themselves and are not going to give names and
The obligation of identification would thus be maintained for the profit of
those who are afraid of slander and of the « right-owners » ( all organisations
and companies cashing them on behalf of authors or owning them, in other words
the "content producers and distributors"). The hope is visibly to induce a
generalised self-censorship of citizens and service providers – now distinct
from access providers – by criminalizing and penalising expression. In its
actual state, the law defines service providers as responsible in case of false
declarations, and if they don’t diligently detect and cut acess to « litigious
content ».

If this bill of law is voted on June 15th, a flood of sub-poenas and complaints
will drown websites owners and providers. Strange way to « developp an
information society which actuality should not be so often into courts » as
claims Catherine Tasca, actual Culture & Communication Minister.

Such a paranoiac posture taken by the french government widely plays in favor of
ultra-liberalism, which laminated the social foundings of our small planet to
enrich its shareholders.
 If so... one can bet those virtual beeings called internauts, will soon embody
and invest the streets ( cyber and real) to tell their disagreement to their
To be continued....


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