French lawmakers have voted in favour of allowing the exchange of music and movies on the Internet. The amendments, which are part of a bill on intellectual property rights, go against the government’s advice. Culture Minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres said: “Totally free culture on the Internet is deceiving, because remunerating creators is not only legitimate, it is also necessary for the renewal of creativity and cultural diversity.”
But deputy Alain Suguenot from the ruling conservative party and the man behind one of the amendments disagrees. He believes that Internet users today have a right to cultural diversity. “Young users especially should have access to the freedom the Internet offers. Strict application of the law would mean restricting access to information which I believe is essential,” he says.
Under the amendment, internet service providers would pay a fixed royalties fee to Sacem – a group which handles artists’ royalties fees – in exchange for unlimited file-sharing. The original bill would have made file-sharing an offence similar to counterfeiting, punishable by a prison sentence of up to three years and fines of up to 300,000 euros.
The amendment states that “authors cannot forbid the reproduction of works that are made on any format from an online communications service when they are intended to be used privately”. Donnedieu de Vabres has asked parliament to re-open the debate on the bill which is scheduled to go before the upper house in January. The amendment has drawn widespread condemnation from the music and film industries. They claim they lose billions of euros in revenue to piracy every year. A number of artists also say it is the beginning of the end of artistic creativity.