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A few words to Sarko

Either The Register has it in for Mr. Sarkozy, the president of la république française, or the man is a nutcase.
Given his popularity rating, I think the only thing that keeps it in positive numbers is his wife.

G8 and copyright

It was reported a month ago that Nicko-Sarko wants to use the G8 platform, when France has its turn of the rotating presidency, to promote more co-operation on internet regulation.
In a lovely bit of FUD, one of Sarko's entourage is quoted as saying "How do you respond to the problem of terrorism, of paedophilia, to subjects such as the right to be forgotten?". I suspect most of the child-abusing terrorists on-line would appreciate being 'forgotten'.

But things get more complicated when the topic veers into copyright issues. For France has enacted a screwy and corrupt piece of legislation called "HADOPI" which is basically the personification of a three-strikes disconnect system. Now Sarko is quoted as saying "Regulating the internet to correct the excesses and abuses that arise from the total absence of rules is a moral imperative!".
Yes, Sarko. I'll tell you in exactly which orifice you may insert your moral imperatives.

You see, since the dawn of time (well, pinch of salt...), France has had a levy applied to blank media. There are some electronics/consumables catalogues that list prices for France and for Belgium. Thanks to the Internet, it isn't hard to cull prices for Switzerland and Italy likewise.
France is somewhere between 20% and 30% more expensive, per product. A blank pack of DVDs that ought to cost around €13 will set me back around €18. Why? France's "levy". Because people download stuff, so this blanket tax was stuffed on to blank media to recompense the Big Media. Fair enough, but they are probably terrified after it backfired in epic style in Spain.
Anyway, enter HADOPI. It pretty much makes downloading copyrighted material to be an illegal act. This alone is a bit dodgy as, well, everything is copyright. But we know what they mean. And now our DVDs will be cheaper...

...but wait, they aren't. We are still paying the levy. Now it is a levy for an illegal act. But as people buy blank media, it is probably a nice little money-spinner for Big Media. Given that HADOPI is probably against the French Constitution, never mind a bunch of EU directives, is anybody going to seriously try chasing people using that law? I suspect it will be a stick to shake, like ACS:Law tried in the UK - one email and potential downloaders will panic and give up.

Screw it, we should download. We should be recompensed for this additional tax we pay on the media we buy. There are no morals, not on either side. The Big Media will whine about the freetards, yet for them it is take take take all the same.
In vaguely related news, they want free and unfettered access to "orphaned works". What this means is if I publish a nice photo on my website, a person can download it and give it to his boss, and if nobody kept track of where it came from, it can be classed "orphaned" and used as seen fit (including magazine front cover) and my rights to be compensated will be effectively zero (or a damn hard battle). Apparently uploading images to the BBC's website strips off metadata that frequently carries geo-location and creator details. Nice, huh?
Hell, Big Media is so desperate for freeloading other people's images that they're even trying to get it legislated that all these complicated copyright laws just won't apply to amateur photographers. But you can bet your ass it would apply to their content. Take a moment to mutter some expletives under your breath.

Oh, and lets not forget that e-books are "licenced", not sold. I will only read free e-books because if I'm coughing up cash, I expect to have a lump of dead tree sitting on my shelf that I can read, or not. Today, in twenty years, and maybe lend to a few people along the way. In a way, Joe Average's mass abuse of rights is in part a reaction to the media company's over-abuse of restrictions. What they don't understand is we just want stuff to work.
Like me. I routinely rip my DVDs to XviD. This is 33% for the convenience of a file I can play on my netbook, but it is 66% because the later generations of Macrovision screw up my audio/visual equipment. It plays merry havoc with my USB video capture box (which is what I currently use as a 'television'), and on the real (cathode ray) TV, in timed sequence the top fifth of the picture tears and wobbles around. No, I will not update my hardware to cope with these 'protections'. Oh, and for what it is worth, I also have to rip DVDs borrowed from the library. Same thing - bloody Macrovision. Oh, the irony, putting me in a position to do exactly what you don't want just so I can watch the thing. But if there is anybody from the movie studios reading this, they'll be fuming and stamping feet like a petulant child. Never will they actually read what is written and understand that it is their overzealous copy protection that is causing the problem (and, for what it is worth, pretty much everything over a decade old is fine - so whatever Macrovision changed turn-of-the-century is the issue).


Is there a problem with downloading and freetardery on the internet?
Hell yes.
Is it a problem the G8 needs to be pre-occupied with?
Hell NO!

Sarkozy, for all of his huffing and puffing, really has bigger issues. For example, the SMIC (minimum wage) went up 9 centimes in January. That's 1%. Now the SMIC is a flat €9. Meanwhile the various taxes (land, house) have gone up 5%-30% (depending on your location), petrol has risen from around €1,15/litre to €1,48/litre. There's disaster in bananas, sugar beet, maize, wheat, and now chocolate. Prices spiral, upwards. The only people who are not worse off now than this time a year ago are those making enough money that they are probably isolated enough from price fluctuations that it doesn't matter so much. If you have 40K in the bank and your outgoings are 10% more, you have a buffer. If you bring in 1K a month and you end the month near the zero mark, the price increases will be felt. Hard.
What is Sarko going to do about this? Can he guide G8 to talk about stability and to try to get the money market working for the people? Or is he going to dick around linking the Internet with terrorists, paedos, and mass copyright abuse? Sure, he'll get support. Every crazy dictator will welcome ideas of how to "regulate" the internet. But, really, I think what's going on in Egypt might be more important. There are signs of unrest in other countries. What do you suppose will happen if fairly moderate nutcases are replaced by hardline nutcases? Are our oil supplies liable to be at risk? There is only so far petrol prices can go before going to work is no longer economically viable. And minimum wage has risen... a whole nine centimes. There's a lot of stuff more important than the internet. That's the stuff Sarko should take to the G8. If he has the balls...


My final word on HADOPI? The Minister of Culture, Christine Albanel, is reported as saying "censée envoyer 10000 mails, 3000 lettres recommandées et 1000 suspensions par jour". I probably don't need to provide a translation of that. But I will ask you this - is this person working for the benefit of the French people, or the Big Media sugar daddy? Yes, that's a fairly serious accusation, however I do not believe anybody would state an intention of expecting to send ten thousand emails, three thousand recorded letters, and issue 1000 disconnections per day without them having quite a push. Think of it over the course of a year - over a quarter of a million ADSL lines disconnected. By a piece of legislation that, astonishingly, requires only the time of the claim to be mentioned - there is no requirement to list what should be seen as essential information, namely who is filing the claim against you, and what you are alleged to have taken.
These are not people working for the benefit of the French populace.


It gets better, it gets so much better...

Sarko is reported to have said that "Microsoft personifies the values of France and Europe".


This would be the global giant well known for its buy-and-conquer practice? This would be the global giant embroiled in numerous anti-trust lawsuits, not to mention with the European Union itself? Somehow that raving lunatic Steve Ballmer (developers, developers, developers, developers, developers, developers...) who is the current CEO of Microsoft, has been awarded the French Legion D'Honneur in what can only be described as massive-ass-kiss.
I dunno, I think the guy who founded the company and saw it to greatness and has now gone to philantropic diversity (aka a certain Bill Gates) is the one deserving of any award. What's Ballmer done? Before you answer, remember Windows Vista. Don't point to 7 either, there's a reason my own blog statistics how Windows XP holding in strong at a shade under 40% for that version alone (look at the "Visitor OS popularity" on the right panel). I can't tell Win7 as the software doesn't distinguish, but for XP to hold a 40% share of the entire OS preference of my site's visitors, that is pretty impressive for an ancient operating system. It also shows people were not impressed by Vista, and the upgrade path for Win7 has been lethargic too.


Turned on by capitalism

But, then, we ought to understand by now that Sarko is obviously turned on by the idea of capitalism. The great shining edifice that embodies the spirit of greed, dishonour, stabbing people in the back, and shitting all over your employees in an attempt to line your pockets and to hell with anybody else.

One might care to remind him that in 2008 the capitalist system nearly failed. Perhaps it should have? The idea of a rescue package of that sort of figure is obscene. But then American finance is heavily instrumental in the world's finance. If it had collapsed, it would have been gory, and the map of the world would, today, look different. Perhaps this is why it doesn't seem like many lessons have been learned. They know that either we risk ending the illusion of the world as we know it, or we keep throwing money at the problem. But for how long? Will the governments stand another bail-out? Will the people?


The hard truth

France is one of the manufacturing powerhouses. It makes, it exports. I might have a fair few comments as the way things happen seem bizarre to me, but it is a working functional country. Why the hell does Sarko want to mess with what isn't broken?
France does not need capitalism, France does not need the protestant work ethic, France does not need whatever screwy power-happy idea takes Sarko's fancy this week. France needs to carry on doing more or less what it is doing, probably with different leadership.

Look at Ireland. Look at Spain. Look at Greece. Open your eyes and look around. If you think a minor alteration to the age of retirement is a bad thing, there are other EU countries where it is much worse. And there are other places outside of the EU where you'd be blessed to live to that age.

France needs some tweaks here and there to adapt to changing times, but on the whole France is not broken, Sarko, stop trying to break it.


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Rick, 26th February 2011, 18:09
It might be worth flogging a dead horse and pointing out the warnings over oil prices following what is going on in Libya and such, even in such a short space as a week, a week since this entry was written. 
Mr Sarkozy, sir, you really have more important things to take to the G8 community...

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