Much fuss has been made over the "DADVSI" law currently under consideration
in France. By some accounts, the French government is trying to ban free
software outright. Getting the real story of what is happening in France
is difficult, especially for one who reads French as slowly as your editor
does. But the truth which is emerging suggests that, while DADVSI is
obnoxious, it isn't quite as bad as some have made it out to be.
DADVSI is the French implementation of the EUCD directive from the European
Union. It can be thought of as the French version of the DMCA; it has the
usual prohibitions on the circumvention of digital restriction mechanisms
and such. An amendment to this bill would appear to ban all software which
does not contain DRM and watermarking capabilities; this provision has led
site to conclude that it would affect tools like web servers, ssh, and
Such a ban looks impractical at best. What the amendment really appears to
cover is any software which is capable of removing DRM and watermarks from
content. This provision clearly covers some free code, with DeCSS being at
the top of the list. No free software will ever be able to access
restricted content under this law; since the source is available, any
restrictions could be removed by the user. So the amended DADVSI law does
effectively ban free software from certain areas, but it does not affect
free software in general.
This law, like all of its variants worldwide, is certainly worth opposing.
petition has been posted for people to express their opposition to this
law, which is expected to be considered immediately before Christmas.
Signing the petition makes sense, especially for French citizens.
Directly contacting members of the National Assembly is also a very good
Meanwhile, the European Union appears poised to adopt a new data retention
directive. This law would require communications providers (telephone
companies, ISPs) to record information on telephone calls, Internet use,
email traffic, etc., and to retain it for 6-24 months. It is already
impossible in some parts of Europe to sit down at an Internet cafe without
showing identity papers; the data retention directive would force Internet
providers across Europe to record identities and activities. Access to
this data would be relatively unrestricted; the entertainment industry is
lobbying to be able to use it for tracking down file sharers.
While not directly related to free software, this directive is clearly
hostile to the rights and privacy of all Europeans. Unfortunately, its
passage in the European Parliament on December 12 appears to be an
almost foregone conclusion. More
information can be found in this EDRI-gram
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