Sarkozy Exports Repressive Internet


UPDATE (October 30th): Following the announcement by the Dutch Minister of Culture that he would not attend the conference, and would instead send an Ambassador to voice the opposition of the Dutch government to three-strikes schemes, the conference has been postponed to an undetermined date.

Paris, October 21st, 2010 - A document leaked by La Quadrature du Net1 shows that Nicolas Sarkozy is "pirating" an international conference on online freedom of expression organized by French minister of Foreign Affairs, Bernard Kouchner. Sarkozy is trying to use the conference as a showcase to promote the French repressive schemes and to avoid turning it into a strong statement that online freedom of expression is a condition of democracy. This instrumentalisation of French diplomacy is a coarse attempt to export approaches detrimental to fundamental freedoms, thus despising both republican values and French constitutional jurisprudence2.

Signature lettre

France, through its minister of Foreign Affairs, Bernard Kouchner, is about to host an international conference on online freedom of expression on October 29th3. A letter signed by Nicolas Sarkozy proves that the latter is trying to turn this event into a promotion of his repressive vision on the Internet, and in particular the HADOPI "three strikes" law. Quite interestingly, this event organization is led by Pierre Sellal, husband of Vivendi Universal's chief lobbyist4, who wrote the disastrous "Vivendi amendment"5 to DADVSI law (EUCD transposition) and strong supporter of the HADOPI law.

For the French presidence, this conference should be "the opportunity to promote the balanced regulatory initiatives carried on by France during these past three years, and in particular the HADOPI law in the field of copyright, which has recently been supported by the European Parliament, as well as the measures taken to fight the new phenomena of cyberciminal.".

Besides the outrageous assimilation of the approval of the Gallo report6 to an endorsement by the European Parliament of the HADOPI law, the President's demand is clear: freedom of expression must not be put before the crusade against sharing and its absurd repression. It does not matter that this would give China and other authoritarian regimes an excuse to instrumentalize copyright as a tool of control and political repression7.

"This international conference on freedom of expression could become the Trojan horse of Sarkozy and his friends' repressive and obsolete vision of the Internet. This coarse manipulation of French diplomacy, disregarding our most fundamental values, is one more example of the alliance between the entertainment industries and a few politicians, who seek to control the public space to remain in power. There is now a huge risk that this repressive vision of the Internet spreads out to the rest of the world. Citizens from all around the world should be concerned with this maneuver and remain watchful" , concludes Jérémie Zimmermann, spokesperson of the citizen advocacy group La Quadrature du Net.

Here is a non official translation of the letter:

Mr Minister,

You informed me of your intention to host, on October 15th, an international conference about freedom of expression on the Internet.

Stakes linked to the development of the Internet are of a growing importance, in political, cultural, economical, industrial and security terms. It is obvious that the transnational nature of the Internet, as much as the strategical character of these stakes call for an international reflection and coordination. It is precisely for these reasons that I decided to make this question one of the agenda items I will suggest to our partners within the French presidency of the G8.

These issues must be considered on a global level, with care to take into account all the stakeholders, and with the objective of building a "civilized Internet". It would not be conceivable that Internet develop as a lawless zone, that our efforts to better regulate the economy would stop at the Internet world.

My conviction is that the rules which are imposed on the whole society and to traditional trade of goods and services must also be imposed on the Internet.

This principle of course applies to the respect for freedom of expression and opinion, which must be protected and defended in the same conditions as everywhere else, and assaults against it must be fought with equal determination.

The same shall apply to the respect of privacy and personnal rights, property rights and particularly copyright. On this last issue the stake is not only to defend artistic creation and the interests of authors, but also to defend a genuine society of freedom, where everyone's freedom is based on respecting the rights of others.

Moreover, new vulnerabilities that the development of the Internet creates for States, our economies, our societies, like the crime that unfolds there, should also be the object of increased focus.

Finally, the important movements of value generated by the digital economy call for a mobilisation both national and european, as well as international actions, to defend with more determination our interests and to promote the distribution of our knowledge, our goods and our services.

We must invite EU institutions and our partners to act with more determination, because Europe shall not simply become a mere user of goods and services designed and produced elsewhere in the world. It would as well be unacceptable not to raise the issue of taxation and revenue collection.

It is important that the conference you are planning emphasizes the need for this global comprehension of the stakes.I wish that it contribute to the necessary pedagogy towards an Internet respectful of the rights of everyone and also that it be an opportunity to promote balanced regulation initiatives taken by France during the past three years, especially the Hadopi law in the field of copyright, which the European Parliament just recently supported, as well as the measures taken to fight the emerging cybercrime phenomena.

Please be assured, Minister, of my best regards.

Nicolas SARKOZY

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