France Hates Democracy

…or so every Internet “fanboy” would have us believe. Still, I think there’s a story behind the recent declaration by France that their citizens may lose their Internet privileges if they misuse it:

A pact between the French Government, French ISP’s and the local music and film industry will see French users who download material from P2P networks losing their internet access.

French internet users will face a three strikes and you’re out policy, according to the NY Times. Users will receive a warning for each illegal download before losing their service on the third infringement.

French president Nicolas Sarkozy endorsed the deal with rhetoric that is bound to win him an Honorary Life Membership of both the RIAA and MPAA: “We run the risk of witnessing a genuine destruction of culture…The Internet must not become a high-tech Far West, a lawless zone where outlaws can pillage works with abandon or, worse, trade in them in total impunity. And on whose backs? On artists’ backs.”

I think the move is the wrong one, but made for the right reasons. It is true that the Internet has a bad reputation of permitting easy access to illegal/immoral content. The fact that “pillaging works with abandon” is not a desirable situation is evidenced if you ask any Internet pirate whether or not he/she would rob Wal-Mart of a CD… the resounding answer is “no”.

However, I think we are past the point of no-return in regards to stopping Internet piracy, particularly in regards to the arts. Downloaded music and movies have been restricted, removed, criminalized,  raided, and tearfully renounced by those responsible for ensuring profits are earned by singers/actors. And much the same as alcohol prohibition or the war on drugs, the Anti-Piracy War ™ is already doomed.

For the sake of amiability, we can all agree that alcohol/drug/download abuse is negative. But pragmatically speaking, this battle was lost before it began. To stop these abuses is not a feasible goal, and likely a waste of resources.

This new e-generation is not going to conform to the standards of prior markets. It’s high time the arts industries moved on and began thinking on their feet, instead of turning to the government to prolong their demise. Compromise is not always negative, and if profits are the driving force behind business morality, then conceding defeat and attempting to innovate should be considered saintly.

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