France works to ease digital copying restrictions

16th January 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Jan 15, 2006 (AFP) - Set aback by rebellious MPs and an outcry by consumer groups, the French government is reworking a digital copyright protection bill to lighten restrictions on CD- and DVD-copying and mete out smaller penalties to small-time downloaders.

PARIS, Jan 15, 2006 (AFP) - Set aback by rebellious MPs and an outcry by consumer groups, the French government is reworking a digital copyright protection bill to lighten restrictions on CD- and DVD-copying and mete out smaller penalties to small-time downloaders.

The culture ministry issued a statement Saturday saying the bill was being amended on the orders of Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin to notably enshrine the right of consumers to make private copies of music and film disks.

It would also make a distinction between people illegally downloading for profit and the estimated eight million individuals in France who occasionally add to their music and movie collections via Internet peer-to-peer sites.

The changes follow the French government's decision to withdraw its original bill from parliament when a small group of MPs from the ruling party and opposition benches managed, in a middle-of-the-night vote, to legalise peer-to-peer file-sharing in December.

That stunning vote, on top of arguments from consumer groups that private users should continue to enjoy the right to make copies of CDs and DVDs for, say, second homes or family members, forced the government rethink.

The Sunday newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche detailed some of the directions the bill was now taking.

They include a phased penalty system for small-time downloaders, starting with a warning e-mail, then a formal letter and finally fines ranging from EUR 300 to EUR 1,500. Commercial downloaders would face up to three years in prison and a fine of up to EUR 300,000.

Private users who have bought music or movies, whether on CD or DVD or online through sites such as Apple's popular Music Store, would have the right to make a certain number of copies, "probably five," the newspaper said.

Currently, many disks, especially movie DVDs, have digital blocks to prevent copying, and those would have to be changed if the French bill becomes law.

The previous French government bill would have made it illegal to hack those blocks, as is the case in the United States under that country's Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Under the proposed new bill, a consumer who broke such protection to put, say, a movie from a disk onto a pocket video player such as Sony's PlayStation Portable or Apple's latest iPod would not be prosecuted. And someone who copies a friend's disk would face only a EUR 150 fine.

However, those trying to make money off such activities or publish hacker how-tos to get around the blocks would face a year in prison and fines of up to EUR 100,000.

Finally, Apple's Music Store in France would also have to be changed under the new amendments: according to the Journal du Dimanche, the government is looking at ensuring that all music sold on that site can be played on MP3 players other than Apple's bestselling iPods, which is not currently the case.

"If Apple refuses, the matter could be taken to the Competition Council," an unidentified government official was quoted as saying.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

 

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