In a video shot for an online news site, French legislators were asked whether they were familiar with peer-to-peer file-sharing technology. “No,” one lawmaker responded, rolling his eyes. “I speak French. Excuse me.”
While France has often prided itself on its contrarian approach to information technology — remember the Minitel? — the response summed up the ham-handedness of the latest digital initiative by the French government. The video appeared this spring, at the height of debate about a plan by President Nicolas Sarkozy to set up a government agency to disconnect persistent copyright pirates from the Internet.
The proposal, approved by Parliament last month after an earlier setback, was shot down last week by the country’s highest judicial review body, the Constitutional Council, which ruled that it violated constitutional guarantees of free speech and the presumption of innocence. Only a court of law is entitled to sever Internet connections, the council ruled.
[…] Every new effort to crack down on file-sharing seems to embolden groups devoted to an unfettered Internet.