Private Copying: French Parliament Downsizes The Public's Rights

Paris, November 23rd, 2011 – Members of the French Parliament are using a bill on private copying levy as an occasion to kill the copyright exception for private copying. Under the pretense of saving royalties collection, MPs have redefined fair use in the process. Giving in once more to pressure from the recording and movie industry, the French Parliament carries on Nicolas Sarkozy's repressive policy against the Internet and new cultural practices.

Today, the French National Assembly begins express examination of the bill on private copying levy. Though this bill1 is aimed at adapting the private copying levy to national and EU case law, Members of the Parliaments are giving in to the copyright industry's request to further narrow down fair use and the rights of the public. Indeed, a crucial amendment aims at conditioning the benefit of the exception for private copying to the legality of the sources used2.

By introducing this notion of “lawfulness of the source”, MPs are forcing everyone to proceed to an in-depth legal analysis based on mostly impossible to determine elements in order to make a private copy. Was the source used to make a private copy lawful? If it was disseminated online, who uploaded it? Did this person have the author's authorisation? etc. Such questions will never, in practical terms, have an answer and will make copying unlawful by default.

“By narrowing down the scope of the exception in this way, the public are being deprived of their rights. After years of a ruthless war against the sharing of culture between individuals on the Internet, French authors' rights law is once more hijacked by vested interests, who want to protect their obsolete business models by limiting recognised user prerogatives.”, said Philippe Aigrain, co-founder of La Quadrature du Net.

“In the name of private copy levy, we are deprived of the right to copy! Such negation of the rights of the public is coherent with Nicolas Sarkozy's policies aimed at turning copyright into a repressive weapon against cultural practices in the hands of industrial lobbies. These political manoeuvres harm the legitimacy of copyright as a whole.”, said Jérémie Zimmermann, co-founder and spokesperson of the citizen organisation.