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Obnoxious legislation in Europe

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 the site to conclude that it would affect tools like web servers, ssh, and FTP.

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. An online 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 idea.

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 newsletter.

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Obnoxious legislation in Europe

Posted Dec 8, 2005 5:42 UTC (Thu) by kirkengaard (guest, #15022) [Link]

The problem with this law, in so far as the free-software-affecting portion is concerned, is that not all content is DRM 'protected', and therefore it cannot be illegal to simply be able to access content without DRM capacity. DRM respect cannot be mandatory on all media software, because it cannot be guaranteed that that project's software will be accessing, let alone circumventing the DRM upon, 'protected' content.

Were it not for the fact that DRM software and encoding relies upon obscurity, this would not be an issue. Open source software is perfectly capable of managing security in practice, and encryption algorithms are publicly available for study (certain of them). 'Source Access' != 'Security Violation'. If they made DRM as a public/private key system, where the code could be seen and implemented without compromise, and keys are distributed per media and by the vendor, anyone could implement it. If they made DRM-restricted content into its own proprietary format, explicitly bound to licensure of that format spec for playback, (aside from the fact that nobody would implement it) only players that dealt with that file format would be restricted.

But no. The system is set up so that it is most efficient for them to produce content in a format that everybody can read cheaply, in a standard format. That way, anybody can buy a CD or DVD, and plug it into their system, and have a decent chance of it working. Commoditization forces at work. And the industries want to make it so that some people simply can't access the content they pay for. They want to narrow their audience.

Let them succeed at narrowing the audience, sure. But we can't let them take away our ability to make software that works apart from their proprietary ideals. There is no rightness to forcing "DRM or Ban" upon all software.

Obnoxious legislation in Europe

Posted Dec 8, 2005 10:15 UTC (Thu) by gypsumfantastic (guest, #31134) [Link]

This law is worth our whole-hearted support. In fact, it's a shame this wonderfully draconian piece of corporate whoring doesn't go further.

At the very least, a total ban of Free Software in France is something we should be actively encouraging. Our rationale for supporting such legislation is here:


Obnoxious legislation in Europe

Posted Dec 9, 2005 3:16 UTC (Fri) by njhurst (guest, #6022) [Link]

Your point is very good, but perhaps if you wrote in a less self-obsessed manner more people would (bother to) understand it.

The point, for others unwilling to wade through that link: By completely bending over to corporate whims, people will quickly realise the pain caused by banning free software and go in a sensible direction. Quite a believable plan, except perhaps that once we have this electronic 1984 state it might be hard for people to change out...

Obnoxious legislation in Europe

Posted Dec 8, 2005 16:05 UTC (Thu) by odie (guest, #738) [Link]

The data retention laws seem very odd to me. I have a continuous, encrypted connection from my home connection to a server somewhere else. This server in turn has a continuous, encrypted connection to an SSL-enabled IRC server. Many of my friends are similarly connected to this IRC network, all of it encrypted.

If my ISP is required by law to keep records of all my communications, what exactly are their responsibilities in this situation? They cannot practically see even as much as when I communicate or how much - the link has sporadic traffic all the time - let alone with whom. Must they shut down my connection, as it is unloggable? Must they crack my ssh tunnels? I have tried to get an answer to this from a lawyer, but she didn't know.

The truth of the matter is of course that it is rediculously easy for bad guys to secure their communications, and that the law will only be an extra cost for ISP's and a threat to citizens' (be they lawful or not) privacy.

Obnoxious legislation in Europe

Posted Dec 10, 2005 11:42 UTC (Sat) by gerardmcglew (guest, #3805) [Link]

"Getting the real story of what is happening in France is difficult, especially for one who reads French as slowly as your editor does"

I'm sure there are one or two people around who would be able to help. If you have links, post them and I'm sure someone would be able to provide a quick summary.

Obnoxious legislation in Europe

Posted Dec 19, 2005 0:08 UTC (Mon) by timechanter (guest, #17548) [Link]

Taking this all a step forward, with PDF and word documents all capable of producing and securing encrypted/water marked documents. Does this not mean that Open Office and all of the PDF views in the open source world would also become illegal?

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