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Mrs Sarkozy vs. music pirates

Sep 7

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Monday, September 07, 2009  RssIcon

You may remember that we told you about 'le loi Hadopi', France's proposed legislation to punish those who illegally download copyrighted cultural works such as music and films. The bill, named after the acronym of a state agency that it would establish and empower, featured a 'three-strikes' policy where repeat offenders would have their Internet access cut off. The Hadopi body would track down offenders and administer the penalty. After an initial defeat in the Assembly (France's lower house) on 9 April, the bill was passed in a second reading on 12 May. The Senate subsequently approved the bill, which was then sent to France's Constitutional Council to address accusations that it was unconstitutional.

On 10 June last, the Council ruled that the bill was repugnant to the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and therefore unconstitutional. The major problem with Hadopi, the Council decided, was the idea of a state agency accusing and punishing a person and thereby assuming the power and authority of a court of law. Another difficulty for the Council lay in the notion of cutting off a person's means of communication. Such actions by the Hadopi body, said the Council, would violate freedom of expression and the presumption of innocence.

But President Sarkozy and his Government are persisting with their efforts to pass the Hadopi bill, which is due to be read in the Assembly for a third vote during this month. One presumes the unconstitutional elements will have been addressed, and it remains to be seen if the bill will have changed in any other ways.

Passing Hadopi has now become a high-profile objective for Sarkozy. Why such an effort? Well, it's no secret here in France that one of the main proponents of such a law to punish illegal downloading is none other than Carla Bruni, his wife. Bruni, you may recall, has released three albums of acoustic folk-pop ballads (the first of which was favourably reviewed here on CLUAS by your blogger) and so can claim that as a recording artist she is directly affected by this issue.

Her influence seems to extend even further. On the rejection of the bill by the Constitutional Council, Sarkozy decided to replace the Culture Minister with responsibility for the legislation, Christine Albanel. Her replacement, sensationally, was one F. Mitterrand - Fréderic, nephew of the former President. A regular on French television and in cultural circles, Mitterrand has the higher and more positive public profile needed to sell a controversial measure to a sceptical public. He was heretofore a socialist like his late uncle, in the same way that Bruni was considered to be a political leftist before her marriage to the centre-right Sarkozy.

Bruni and Mitterrand were not strangers to each other. Mitterrand is a friend of Bruni's mother - and it is rumoured that Bruni encouraged the appointment of Mitterrand last year to the prestigious position as head of the French Academy in Rome. And now Bruni seems to have got a capable and sympathetic minister to finally get Hadopi passed into law.

The Bruni connection doesn't stop with Mitterand. As part of the effort to address the question of illegal downloading, the new Culture Minister has set up a working group to examine ways of reinforcing legal methods of downloading copyrighted material and better rewarding composers and creators. The head of this group is Patrick Zelnik, president of Impala, the European association of independent record companies and producers. Zelnik is also head of Naive - the record company of Carla Bruni.

Not even the debate on downloading music can escape the Bruni-Sarkozy soap opera, it seems.

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Author

Aidan Curran, based in Paris, has been writing for CLUAS since 2004. More info about Aidan...

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