Lawmakers Clueless About BitTorrent and P2P

The entertainment industry managed to convince the French government to draft a law that will make it possible to disconnect people from the Internet, if they receive more than two copyright infringement warnings. Sadly, most of the politicians who plan to sign the law into action have no clue what they're dealing with.

According to France’s Minister of Culture, Christine Albanel, the effects of illegal file-sharing are disastrous. She claims, based on statistics provided by the music industry, that piracy seriously hurts the economy and hinders cultural development. The public has to be made aware of the harm they are causing, she argues.

In order to clamp down on piracy the French have proposed a new law that requires Internet service providers to cut off Internet access for persistent offenders. Under the new law ISPs have to warn alleged copyright infringers, and if they they ignore these warnings their Internet access is terminated for up to a year.

The public has actively opposed the law, claiming it restricts their freedom and privacy, while deeming the measure to be ineffective. In a recent poll 90% of the people spoke out against the legislation. Despite this protest, the law is backed by a majority in the French parliament and is expected to be adopted quite easily in the beginning of April.

However, do the politicians that will vote on the law have any clue what they are dealing with? Are they aware that the evidence gathering against alleged infringers is far from accurate, and that it’s not unusual for the wrong person to be accused? Or do they even know what BitTorrent is?

In order to test their knowledge on the subject, a reporter from Hebdo Cinéma questioned some of the politicians. They were asked what they thought was a bigger threat – BitTorrent or P2P. The results were quite revealing, and almost none of them could come up with the right answer.

Most politicians have simply no idea what they are talking about, with Herve Mariton commenting “It is beyond my skills, I admit.” Arnaud Montebourg used his trip to Washington as an excuse for not answering the complex question. “Give me a minute, because I am not aware of the details of the last amendments,” he added.

Patrick Ollier on the other hand, didn’t even understand what was said and asked the reporter to repeat the question in French. Maxime Gremetz’ response wasn’t any better, “I don’t know, I am not a technician,” he told the journalist. Interestingly, Georges Tron said that P2P was more of a threat than BitTorrent, although his explanation for it was utterly vague.

Claude Bartolone was the only one who made sense really. “From a technological point of view, I think the consequences would be the same,” he said, adding “From a consumer point of view it’s always more pleasant to listen to whatever you want whenever you want.”

The lack of knowledge demonstrated by these lawmakers signals a major problem. They are clueless about file-sharing technology and how it works, and oblivious to the potential negative consequences of the new law. Their main advisers are fed dubious and one-sided information from the entertainment industry, while the people on the streets seem to be ignored. Sad but true.

P2P vs. BitTorrent? (French)

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