April 20, 2024

Media Cache: While in France, Watch What You Download

PARIS — More than 800 members of the global digerati are to gather this week in Paris, at the invitation of President Nicolas Sarkozy, to discuss the future of the Internet. Here are a few tips for participants in the so-called E-G8 Forum.

Travel light
It has been warm and dry in Paris this spring, and the forecast calls for more of the same.

Watch what you download
France, remember, recently enacted a law to crack down on digital piracy of music and movies, the centerpiece of Mr. Sarkozy’s efforts to help content creators and copyright owners get remunerated for their work. Under the law, repeat offenders face the threat of a suspension of their Internet access.

Or do they? How is the so-called three strikes system actually performing? Do those attending E-G8 have anything to fear?

Not during the two days of the forum — that much is clear. Last week, after a data leak had been discovered, the government agency enforcing the law said it had temporarily severed its connection with the company supplying it with details about alleged offenders.

The French data protection authority, CNIL, said it was investigating the breach at the company, Trident Media Guard, which works on behalf of content owners, rather than the agency, called Hadopi. The findings will not be known for several weeks.

Not to worry, Hadopi said. It still has plenty of dossiers to process in the meantime and will keep sending out warnings to those suspected of sharing files illegally.

What of the Internet users who have already heard from Hadopi? The agency says it has sent out tens of thousands of admonishments via e-mail and, in some cases, is moving on to a second warning, by registered mail.

There are tentative signs that this may be working. In a survey published this month by Hadopi, 7 percent of French Internet users said they had received a warning or knew someone who had. Seventy-two percent of the recipients said they had stopped or reduced their illegal file-sharing activity as a result.

So far, however, this does not seem to have translated into a turnaround for the ailing recorded music industry. The industry’s French trade association says sales in the first quarter fell 5 percent. While digital sales rose 13 percent, to a modest €26 million, or $37 million, CD sales continued to fall.

Meanwhile Hadopi is broadening its educational role by reviewing applications from digital music services for labels certifying that their offerings are legal. When this is complete, the agency wants to set up a Web site providing links to approved services.

But the data protection agency recently criticized Hadopi for delays in meeting one requirement of the law: that it detail the ways in which Internet users can secure their private networks against illegal file sharing. As long as such software is unavailable, it could be difficult for the agency to secure court orders to execute the third of three strikes, which would cut off Internet access.

It is not even clear that Mr. Sarkozy wants things to advance to that stage.

In a speech last month when he introduced a new agency called the National Digital Council, which will advise the government on technological matters, Mr. Sarkozy let it slip that he thought Hadopi was an “imperfect solution,” rather than “an end in itself.” He even appeared to suggest that he would consider ditching Hadopi if Internet companies found fair ways to remunerate content creators.

The Élysée Palace quickly went into damage-control mode, expressing Mr. Sarkozy’s “full support” for Hadopi.

“Neither the merits of Hadopi’s actions nor the need for a determined fight against piracy have been cast into doubt by the president of the republic,” it said in a statement.

So we repeat: Watch what you download. This is your second warning. And, on second thought, a raincoat is never a bad idea in Paris.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/23/technology/23cahce.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

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