France blocks moves to legalise downloading

8th March 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, March 8, 2006 (AFP) - French government attempts to stop Internet users downloading music and movies ratcheted up a notch Wednesday when Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy blasted the widespread practice as "theft".

PARIS, March 8, 2006 (AFP) - French government attempts to stop Internet users downloading music and movies ratcheted up a notch Wednesday when Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy blasted the widespread practice as "theft".

His blunt appraisal, made after a meeting with several well-known French singers and musicians, came as the parliament debated a government bill that would punish anybody who broke copyright on digital works available on the Internet, CDs and DVDs.

Debate on the bill began in December 2005 but was abruptly halted when a rebellious group of ruling party and opposition MPs voted amendments that would legalise downloads, to the shock of the government, which withdrew the text.

After reducing penalties against individual offenders and scrapping an article containing the contentious amendments, the government resubmitted the bill late Tuesday.

MPs from the left-wing opposition, joined again by several ruling party MPs, tried to revive the amendments and attach them to other parts of the bill, but they were thwarted by members loyal to the government.

One dissenting member of the UMP majority, Christine Boutin, said the government tactics would simply "push Internet users to piracy".

The original idea to legalise downloads required a general fee be added to monthly Internet subscription charges, with the money thus raised going to a royalties fund to pay artists.

An estimated eight to 10 million people in France -- nearly 17 percent of the population -- already download files without making any sort of payment.

Representatives of big music groups watched from the public gallery as the matter was discussed in the parliament. Debate is scheduled to continue the rest of this week, with a bill being put to a vote on March 15.

Culture Minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres said the idea of a downloading licence fee "would not benefit those creating works, nor Internet users", arguing that it was too difficult to fairly distribute money raised in such a way among the artists.

Sarkozy, meeting French singers Julie Zenatti, Julien Clerc, Enrico Macias and Calogero, as well as several music industry executives, said the government was hostile to permitting downloads.

"Young people must have the right to be able to make private copies, but industrial illegal downloading is theft. And as for me, I am not here to accept the idea of theft. The right of ownership, copyright, must be respected," he said.

Those in the meeting with him welcomed that stance.

Pascal Negre, the head of Universal Music in France, said Sarkozy raised the option of cracking down on computer programmes that facilitate illegal copying by breaking copy protection on DVDs and CDs or that handle downloading.

Benoit, the member of a band called Kyo, said that it was also possible "to block sites from being used in France".

"They are already doing that in China," he said, but he hastily added that he was "just making a technical comparison".

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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