Drapeau français

02-24-2011, 16:00 UTC-5 last updated
Add of quotes from the french 'Césars 2012' ceremony

by Bernard Rosset

Defence of a free Internet

What if we didn't jeopardize this not-so-well-known place?

In nowadays society, it is a daily statement that democracy, despite being a political system without caveat, is one of the best ones to choose in order to ensure fundamental liberties to its citizens, as long as they keep their government following their wish.
Internet is not more than a network which gathers different kinds of machines, which in turns connects people to each other whatever their place is. The network has no other aim than delivering information. It can't be claimed that Internet is a good or a bad place, it is neutral in its very nature. For that liberty heaven to remain safe, we as internauts shall protect it from any attempt to control, restrict or filter it, whatever the means or the justification are.

The network neutrality: a fundamental step towards freedom of speech over the Internet

A network can be simply defined by a positive description of its very nature: delivering. For the Internet case, you talk about information, encoded in binary electrical signals.
The network neutrality is more convenient to define through a negative definition: delivering and nothing else! Whatever the information is about, delivering exclusively implies mving information between two places, without any mechanisms such as inspecting/modifying/deleting this information.

Defending the network neutrality started long ago, far ahead of the current piracy concern.
In the early ages of the Internet, people wondered about the leftovers of the ARPANET, making the United States of America controlling directly theoritically indepedant institutions governing the worlwide Internet.
This stranglehold on the ICANN (including the IANA), the IETF and some of the generic top-level domains (gTLD, such as .com you probably heard about during the MegaUpload shutdown event, as well as .net, .org, etc.) was already making people defending their freedom ver the Internet gnashing their teeths. This debate, even if only gathering experienced users of the Internet (compared to the standard users which number was quite limited), was already vivid.
This current concern about piracy allows highlighting the neutrality problems. Sadly not without pain.

Back to our subject: why should you as a daily user of the Internet being concerned about that network neutrality?
Since the Internet is still a young network, since it has been used in a significant way for not more than twenty years, the simplest example to understand what is at stake is to transpose this question on another network, better known from far: let us compare e-mail and postal mail.

Concern #1) Content inspection (notion of confidentiality)

You wouldn't like that your mailman to be able to read your mail before giving it to you. You would probably complain about the violation of your privacy, and you would be right to defend your rights.
What if someone was able to legally read your e-mails before putting it inside your e-mail box? In a more general concern what if this people was able to read every bit of Internet traffic in or out of your computer?

Concern #2) Modification/Deletion of data (notion of integrity)

Now what if your mailman was even more powerful and was able to take action on your mail, based on multiple criteria, such as (but not an exhaustive list):

Transposed on the Internet case (you would rather talk about the Web for a majority of users):

Internet principles are nothing new. It is a network like others, transmitting information directly following its dematerialization brought by the use of computers.
However, since this network is relatively young, defense of your privacy and our rights is not part of your first reflexes, even if it was your daily concern. This naïvety is an opportunity for people who already understood what is at stake, for their very best and our worst future.

Dematerialization, medium for copying. Internet, medium for sharing

Mass computers is one thing among others: an enhanced photocopier.

At first, there was a need of keeping data safe from hardware failures, copying started by replicating data on other media: that is called backup.
Since it is simple and free to transfer data on other media, why not making other copies? If I write an article or a report, and I then want to send/tranfer it to several other people. No problem so far.
What if now I am listening to one of my favourite songs or I am watching my very favorite movie of all times. I am still physically able to copy them from one medium to another, to make other people as happy as I am. But suddenly I can't. Why do rules have to change?
Uh... the copyright thing.

Defending the copyright, or How to make new stuff with old material (people?)

When you tell me about the defense of the copyright, I totally agree woth you, and I say even more: authors are in danger, you need to protect them. Between you and me, this concern has existed for ages, it has nothing to deal with computers.

The whining reasons you are told, whoever you are and wherever you live, is the following:

  1. Bad pirates copy culture-related content

  2. Since this work is protected by copyright, pirates are counterfeiting

  3. Since this work is copied and shared, it means some money taken from authors

  4. To defend authors against bad pirates, you need to stalk them and severely punish them

Here is the basic reasons behind every measure destroying freedom all over the world, in particular Union flag (mini version) / United States of America flag (mini version) ACTA, Union flag (mini version) / United States of America flag (mini version) SOPA, Union flag (mini version) / United States of America flag (mini version) PIPA, & French flag (mini version) Hadopi
Let us analyse those statements step by step:

  1. Bad pirates copy culture-related content

    Culture, like education, require information sharing (in its most basic meaning).
    If you go to the theater, you probably have been influenced by something. There are of course official advertisement campaigns, but nothing has more impact than you social circles advice to promote cultural work (I personnally became fan of the famous french singer Jean-Jacques Goldman by steal... borrowing my brother CD). Who never were told going to watch a movie or some musical event by this insistent friend before liking it aswell?
    These video or audio tapes, CD, DVD, harddisks & USB keys which are exchanged between people are only media. Sharing cultural stuff has always existed and their copy was not born with computers.
    There is one thing true however: computers and computer networks (including Internet) made information sharing far more easier. At first glance, nothing wrong in that.

  2. Since this work is protected by copyright, pirates are counterfeiting

    When you talk about protected cultural work, you talk about copyright.
    Do you really know what is the meaning of it and what it was intended for? The answer is simple: Defending authors against editors. In the beginning, it was invented to protect writers against powerful printers.
    When yo utranspose that in the nowadays world, the copyright has been extended and protects an enlarged range of cultural stuff, including music (musicians/singers agains producers) and video (movie directors against producers).
    The very meaning of the copyright is to ensure that people who created something are being well rewarded for it against powerful companies which they signed a contract with to help distributing and promoting their work.
    I will reference thos companies as 'majors' in the following.

    Let us get back to the reasons we are analysing.
    When you are told about the copyright here, it is not to protect authors against editors but editors against consumers.
    Thus, editors invoke copyrights to save their earnings. What a strange switch of meaning...
    Union flag (mini version) / United States of America flag (mini version) The ThePirateBay website reminds you that Hollywood was built on escaping areas where copyright was protecting ideas, in order to use them in movies.
    Theorytically, Hollywood should not has existed ever if the (vague) idea of intellectual property was not bypassed.

  3. Since this work is copied and shared, it means some money taken from authors

    Let us start with refreshing our minds about our current world:
    In the music or movies field, producers are huge and very powerful. So powerful that the authors' share of the earning coming from the sales of their work is ridiculous.
    I do not tell you about the most famous artists but I am focusing on the biggest part composed of less known ones.
    For example, Union flag (mini version) / United States of America flag (mini version) on the 99 cents price of a song on iTunes, authors only earn 10 cents. 90% is the percentage of earning intermediates take, even when they do not create anything.

    Now, I would like to focus on the sidestepped problem of cultural work earnings consequently of their free sharing.

  4. To defend authors against bad pirates, you need to stalk them and severely punish them

    I do not even know what to say here. You are considering punishing something you would have a hard time demonstrating it is bad in court.

    Wait. There was a keyword there. Court.
    When a problem is hard to face in court, you would be tempted to bypass the court. It is a common (but wrong) reflex as people, organization or state: that is why executive leads should never has the power to bypass justice.
    That is where the problem lies: more than having questionable reasons, all solutions which were proposed so far have in common the flaw of removing justice decisions from courts.

    The ACTA simply gives executive and justice powers to private companies in order to allow them to ensure their 'rights' are not violated.

    Briefly: The reasons are questionable, the proposed solutions destroy freedom and give powers to private lobbys. Those who like global conspiracy should be hysterical!
    Let us finally get interested in the way used to make these law pass:


The authors' rights are a real and a huge concern. However it has always been the case, it would be pretentious to make Internet users responsible for it.
As an Internet user and a citizen like billion others, I really wish to protect all those artists who make culture vivid and make them being able to live a life of it.

Wrong problem leads to erroneous solutions: those we are told about are obviously not the right ones, these are still to be invented.
Some ideas start to appear however, for example by changing the current economic model of the culture industry : it would be nice if it was time for the oligopoly of the big producers to reach an end.
There are some laws to create, ones would protect small companies against huge ones in the cultural sectors. Why are they currently facing certain death?
It would be nice if artists could decide what their earnings should be to make intermediates make less profit on their work, it is an interesting reflexion... maybe reducing/getting rid of intermediates between authors and consumers!

Meanwhil, corrupted laws that try to be passed are a danger. What is at stake is the future of the Internet: fighting for your liberty over the Internet has reached a milestone.

Wake up! Fight to defend your fundamental liberties!

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