France: Copyright Is More Important Than Human Rights

from the liberty,-equality,-fraternity,-monopoly dept

It’s no secret that Nicolas Sarkozy is a strong supporter of more draconian copyright laws, and has also been talking about the need to clamp down on free expression online. Even so, it’s still a bit shocking to see him outright declare that copyright is more important than human rights online:

The Foreign Ministry said that France does not wish to sign a UN declaration favorable to the defense of human rights on the Internet until there is no consensus on the fact that freedom expression and communication does not take precedence over other rights, including intellectual property.

That’s from a Google translation of the French which is a little awkward. Using a different translator, it translates the “until there is no consensus” to be “as long as there will be no consensus.” French speakers, feel free to confirm. But it appears the French government is saying that it refuses to sign a declaration concerning human rights online unless those who sign on agree to admit that freedom of expression and communication is less important than copyright. That’s insane.

As Glyn Moody writes in the link above, this very much goes counter to France’s actual interests. The country, which is well known for promoting French culture above foreign cultures, doesn’t seem to realize that locking up its culture will do the exact opposite of what its officials seem to expect:

The worst thing the French government can do would be to make it *harder* to access French culture in the form of literature, music, films, etc through increasingly punitive enforcement of outdated copyright laws. Instead, it should be encouraging all the relevant industries to make their wares available as widely as possible – if necessary through subsidies.

And yet Sarkozy seems to regard supporting his fat-cat chums in the copyright industries as more important that truly helping the broader culture French culture, or even – heaven forfend – supporting universal ideals like freedom.

Or, as Moody puts it more succinctly in his post’s title: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity… Monopoly.

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Comments on “France: Copyright Is More Important Than Human Rights”

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73 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Le minist?re des affaires ?trang?res a fait savoir que la France ne souhaite pas signer de d?claration de l’ONU favorable ? la d?fense des droits de l’Homme sur Internet tant qu’il n’y aura pas de consensus sur le fait que la libert? d’expression et de communication ne prime pas sur les autres droits, en particulier la propri?t? intellectuelle.

The ministry of external affairs said that France does not wish to sign a declaration from the UN favorable to the defense of Human rights on the Internet as long as there’s no consensus on the fact that liberty of expression and communication is not superior to other rights, in particular intellectual property.

That being said, he’s an ass.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I’m confirming the translation too.

No surprises here, Sarkozy is the worst rotten crap humanity has to offer. It is unfortunate he managed to reproduce although there is the chance the kid will be different from the parents…

Hopefully the French are reading that. And hopefully they are as outraged (but not surprised) as most of us (except MAFIAA) and will be inclined to take action against this French Hitler.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

What’s funny is that we, in the US, make fun of France ad nauseum for being “surrender monkeys”. And I have to admit, it can be occasionally funny if the joke is well constructed. And, sure, the accusation is based on some historical fact. But Gaulish history goes back before WWI, and plenty of wars were fought, not surrendered.

However, self-entitled Americans should not call the kettle black. We roll over, not for foreign aggressors, but for domestic abrogation of our rights. Patriot Act, Protect IP, warrantless wiretaps, retroactive immunity, etc, etc. Hardly a peep from us patriots. We’d much rather watch reality TV and get lathered up about abortion or gay marriage.

The French could teach us something about standing up for our rights. If the gov’t there pushes too far, there will be a protest in the Champs Elysees faster than you can say “Jean Valjean”. Striking and demonstration has reached the level of national pastime! And that’s a good thing.

You can disagree all you want with the things they protest, but you shouldn’t argue with their zeal to get involved with their governance. Around here, the only group I see that is as politically engaged is a wacky splinter group that believes Paul Revere rode around to warn the British that “were a comin”.

Chris Rhodes (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

However, self-entitled Americans should not call the kettle black. We roll over, not for foreign aggressors, but for domestic abrogation of our rights. Patriot Act, Protect IP, warrantless wiretaps, retroactive immunity, etc, etc. Hardly a peep from us patriots.

There are not enough “insightful” votes in the world for this.

Jay (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

“However, self-entitled Americans should not call the kettle black. We roll over, not for foreign aggressors, but for domestic abrogation of our rights. Patriot Act, Protect IP, warrantless wiretaps, retroactive immunity, etc, etc. Hardly a peep from us patriots. We’d much rather watch reality TV and get lathered up about abortion or gay marriage.”

Not ALL of us roll over. The ones aware of the problems of copyright infringement, the FISA Act, the current fiscal policies of “corporatism trumps all” hasn’t gone unnoticed. But unless we file a report that will be ignored, a law that will take away freedoms, wiretaps that we aren’t allowed to know about, and immunities not discussed by the people, aren’t shown to us unless we look for it. It’s difficult to tell others about these things.

Ask a Senator? Form letter

Ask a Congressman? Form letter.

Grievance against your government? Form letter.

Face it, the American process is just one form letter after another.

Simon Dufour (profile) says:

The end is particularly butched in the translators

“Le minist?re des affaires ?trang?res a fait savoir que la France ne souhaite pas signer de d?claration de l’ONU favorable ? la d?fense des droits de l’Homme sur Internet tant qu’il n’y aura pas de consensus sur le fait que la libert? d’expression et de communication ne prime pas sur les autres droits, en particulier la propri?t? intellectuelle.”

The Foreign Ministry said that France does not wish to sign a UN declaration favorable to the defense of human rights on the Internet as long as there will be no consensus on the fact that freedom expression and communication does not take precedence over other rights, especially intellectual property.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Actually, he said that no right should ever take precedence over intellectual property.

He’s setting “intellectual property” as the most important right, and that’s just disgusting. He’s saying that denting culture and knowledge for the benefit of “some” takes precedence of freedom of expression and communication, which benefit everyone and are the very foundations of any democracy.

darryl says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

yay, finally someone who gets it, human rights are “human rights”.

that means EVERYTHING, including speech, IP, privacy,

Freaking everything, and no one form of “human rights” can take precidence over others.

Mike as usual has completely missed the entire point, but that is normal and expected.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Do you actually know the difference between Natural (inalienable) and Legal rights?

“Human rights” are based on the philosophy of Natural rights, and can be traced back in legal documents to such things as the Magna Carta (which stated that the sovereigns will could be bound by law), Bill of Rights (UK, 1600cc), D?claration des droits de l’Homme et du Citoyen (France 1789) up to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the UN in 1948.

Philosophers like Immanuel Kant, John Locke, Thomas Paine, and Thomas Hobbes have theorised and expanded on these ‘rights’ for centuries giving us what we currently know as “Human rights”

The right to IP (Copyright, trademark,Patents) though is definitely not a Natural Right, in fact it only comes from the British “Statute of Anne (1709)” and is still to this day a Legal (Statutory) exclusive right only. Becasue of this the “right of exclusive copyright/IP” can be taken away at the behest of the government/people. whereas a natural/Human right can not be taken away from anyone because they are inalienable (unable to be alienated, surrendered, or transferred).

In fact Thomas Jefferson himself in the US when creating the United States Declaration of Independence removed the word “property” from the original draft (due to the philosophy of Locke) and replaced it with “pursuit of happiness” instead, showing that ownership of Property was then as it is today not an inalienable human right.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

yay, finally someone who gets it, human rights are “human rights”.

that means EVERYTHING, including speech, IP, privacy,

No, plenty of people “get it”, they just reject it.

There used to be segment of the US population who thought that the “right to own slaves” was a form of “human rights”, too. A war was fought over that one. Still, some people never got the message.

Designerfx (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I’d say you’re quite imposing on the anon here – while we may not agree with France’s general principle, the wording does indeed sound like they are refusing to sign the agreements (and sign away their rights).

I think the Anon seems to have this quite correct, and your comment in comparison, is quite inflammatory.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I think the Anon seems to have this quite correct, and your comment in comparison, is quite inflammatory.

Eh???

I re-quote exactly what the anon said and you say thatI am being inflammatory?

That makes no sense to me.

I then ask him whether he disagrees with the reported RIAA stance on DRM vs safety concerns – he can come back and say “No I don’t agree with that” if he likes – just trying to find out where his stance actually is. In this sub-thread the French position is not the point.

Designerfx (profile) says:

translation from my french coworker - not at all interpreted right from translate

They were saying in the second paragraph that “everyone has a right to IP” and that IP should *NOT* be a hierarchy…so it’s implying it’s equal to human rights.

First paragraph says that liberty, respect of “private life” and private property are all fundamental rights of the same level.

Check with people who speak french first before posting so off on this. I mean really, did you expect google translate to work well for *french*?

Designerfx (profile) says:

Re: addition/correction

“then it says that the foreign affair minister said htat france doesn’t wish to sign any declaration with ONU regarding the defense of human rights on the internet as long as their is no consensus on the fact that the liberty to express and communicate is not above all the other rights. specifically the right to intellectual property”

Designerfx (profile) says:

Re: Re: last addition

my french speaking co clarified further: it’s not that they’re saying that human rights are not above IP, the wording as it’s explained is saying that people already have these rights, and the ONU agreement which they are refusing to sign would be taking away people’s speech rights, more or less.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: last addition

“en particulier la propri?t? intellectuelle.”

No, what he said and tried to weasel his way through was that imaginary property is a right above all other rights hence the “in particular the Intellectual Property”.

At best he tried to lump everything on the same level and tried to say that imaginary property is a right which is not, it is a privilege conceded by society represented by their elected officials.

Crosbie Fitch (profile) says:

Re: Re: translation from my french coworker - not at all interpreted right from translate

It’s not just you.

I’ll add that copyright doesn’t remove our natural/human right to copy, it only annuls its recognition in law – an 18th century privilege that supersedes our primordial cultural liberty.

It’s time the people stopped recognising copyright altogether, and just enjoyed their natural liberty to share and build upon their own culture.

France should be Questioning Copyright, not questioning human rights.

out_of_the_blue says:

Your take MAY be correct, but the words are nuanced:

‘Because the government has an easy to remember that “freedom, respect for privacy and intellectual property” rights are all at the same level, and that “France considers that it should not be a hierarchy between these rights.”‘

Can be read as not wanting to set one right above another, that all are essential.

Nor do I agree that all copyright laws are “outdated”. Has to be some, or the industry disappears. Besides, you object that they’re being adjusted right now to cover the new ease of reproduction and distribution.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Your take MAY be correct, but the words are nuanced:

“that all are essential”

I would definitely argue that the idea of IP, especially when applied to corporations, is nowhere near as important as individual freedom of speech. For example, how can you truly express said freedom if the IP of others is as important as whatever you have to say?

“all copyright laws are “outdated”. Has to be some, or the industry disappears”

It’s certainly possible to criticise the laws as outdated without calling for them to be revoked. A subtle difference that many pro-IP people here seem to miss.

“Besides, you object that they’re being adjusted right now to cover the new ease of reproduction and distribution.”

They’re being adjusted to protect the old gatekeepers, who are no longer necessary, at the expense of both artists and the public. That’s certainly worthy of objection.

Duke (profile) says:

Copyright is a human right

As much as it pains me to say this, copyright *is* a human right in the EU. It’s covered both by Article 17.2 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, which specifically mentions intellectual property, and Article 1 of Protocol 1 of the ECHR – although this is a little less clear; there are a couple of cases on this (Anheuser-Busch Inc v Portugal on trade marks, and Balan v Moldova on copyright) but nothing from the Grand Chamber.

It’s rather depressing.

Crosbie Fitch (profile) says:

Re: Copyright is a human right

You can try and misrepresent copyright as a human right, but such things do not arise because Queen Anne thinks her Stationers’ Company deserve to have their monopolies back.

If you need the power of the state to threaten anyone who sings your songs, tells your stories, or copies your photos, then this is a big clue it’s not a human right. Human rights arise through the nature of the individual, not arbitrary laws the crown or state think might be lucrative.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re: Copyright is a human right

Why do you think they need to put dire warnings about copying on DVDs, in film theatres and even on photocopy machines but never needed to put warnings about not committing murder on guns and knives or about not transporting stolen goods in vans and lorries?

Answer – because copyright is not a natural moral thing that people instinctively recognise – but rather an invented and imposed concept which the have to keep trying to drum into the masses – mostly unsuccessfully!

Duke (profile) says:

Re: Re: Copyright is a human right

I’m not going to get into another “natural rights” argument with you, but I will point out that the 1709 Copyright Act (the “Anne” one) is a lot more author-friendly and less Stationers’ Company-friendly than the previous laws. Some of the booksellers and publishers were really quite annoyed at parts of it and ended up going to court repeatedly to get it “fixed” (things like the public domain, the reverting to authors, the author-focus etc.).

The 1709 Act was actually about protecting authors and making sure they got a reasonable financial return, rather than the Stationers’ Guild stuff (from the 1550s onwards) which involved monopolies over publishing, censorship and control.

Crosbie Fitch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Copyright is a human right

Yes, this “Copyright is a monopoly for authors’ rather than printers’ benefit” is an intriguing myth, no doubt created along the same lines as ‘Think of the starving artists!’.

If the Stationers’ Company wanted Queen Anne to reinstate their monopolies (if not restore to them their exclusive control over all printing) they would have the cunning to portray their granting as not at all in their own interests, but in the interests of the laity, or perhaps the poor starving authors…

That every original work has an author, and to be practical, reproduction monopolies must be granted per original work, conveniently entails that monopolies appear to be granted to each author (instead of to each work). It is thus easy to portray the monopoly as intended for the author and their beenfit, not the publisher destined to exploit it (having the potency the author lacks).

Why do you think most artists signed to record labels never recoup their advances? The monopoly isn’t intended for the artist, but the publisher geared up to exploit it.

If copyright was intended for the author it wouldn’t be transferable, and it would be policed by the state.

Anonymous Coward says:

France have some of the most stringent laws when it comes to copyrights.

Now the funny part of that is that it also have some of the biggest contributions to online sharing.

Jamendo is French, Sarcoidosis try really hard and his own people undermine his efforts LoL

VLC:
“Originally the VideoLAN project started as an academic project in 1996. It was intended to consist of a client and server to stream videos across a campus network. VLC was the client for the VideoLAN project, with VLC standing for VideoLan Client. Originally developed by students at the ?cole Centrale Paris, it is now developed by contributors worldwide and is coordinated by the VideoLAN non-profit organization.”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VLC_media_player

Anonymous Coward says:

This is an attack on Fair Use.

From what I can understand of the translations provided above, this could be used to attack fair use. After all, if IP ‘rights’ have equal precedence with freedom of expression, this could lead to the argument of: “My IP rights are equal to your freedom of expression, so express yourself how you want, just don’t use my IP”.

wise-reader says:

France’s Sarkozy says just that: “we don’t respect you as people, as time as you don’t let us to sell you our knowledge / information / books / music, whatever.”
It seems to me as a desperate mercantile approach.
(Well, actually we won’t buy anything from you, we will prefer other civilizations. No, not because we prefer to steal -or download- instead, but because we are humans even before being just stupid “customers” as you would like us to be. So, thanks, but no thanks.)

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