Christine Albanel is put under pressure over attacks on civil liberties in the French Creation and Internet (3-strikes) law and insults the opposition. But government amendments carried and opposition ones defeated.
The second day of the debate in the French Parliament on the Creation and Internet law, which seeks to cut file-sharers off the Internet for downloading copyrighted content, was interrupted by a double gaffe from the French culture minister, Christine Albanel. Under fire from opposition Socialist and Left parties over her 3-strikes proposals, she accused the opposition members of creating a caricature of the Hadopi authority as 'some sort of Gestapo'. In France, the use of the word 'gestapo' represents a serious insult, and she was forced to retract her statement.
It came in the middle of a debate on Article 2 of the law, which sets out the functions and structure of the Hadopi - the authority which will oversee the 3-strikes measures. Madame Albanel was responding to an attack from the opposition that the Creation and Internet law made an assumption that the person accused is guilty, unless they can prove their own innocence, reversing the legal principle of presumption of innocence in European law. It followed a long series of opposition accusations that the Hadopi represents an attack on civil liberties - which also include the lack of privacyguarantees, and the necessity for surveillance leading to ‘une repression massive'. There was further criticims of the high costs of maintaining the Hadopi. The opposition also called the Hadopi a ‘monstre juridique' and a ‘usine a gaz'.
Madame Albanel was put on the defensive. She insisted that the Hadopi will be a public authority, composed of magistrates. The cost of running it was not that high, she insisted. And ‘touts les droits seront respectes' she said. Looking pressured, she then rounded on them. A rough translation of what she said is: ‘ that you caricature the Hadopi as some form of gestapo, is laughable' she said. As soon as she spoke, the opposition erupted into shouts, disupting the proceedings for a few minutes.
Then Christian Paul (Socialist) stood up and called on her to take back her words: "dans ce pays, le ministre de culture est aussi minister de liberte... vous devez retirer le terme" he said.
Whereas in the UK, the word ‘gestapo' may be used jokingly to refer to someone who is overbearing or officious, in France, it is highly sensitive. France was occupied by the Nazis in the Second World War, and people still remember how their relatives were taken away to the gas chambers. But it wasn't just the simple fact that she delivered the insult. In her role as Minister for Culture, Madame Albanel is also minister for the French language - she was attacked because she should have known better than to use this word.
Patrick Bloche, Socialist, attacked her further, saying he was taken aback and insulted - his own grandmother had been one of the victims of the gestapo. Madame Albanel meanwhile had gone grey, as she realised what she had done.
The incident happened near the end of a long, full-day of debate. In an earlier session, the debate had addressed the funding of "la creation". The Socialist and Left opposition parties attacked the protectionist aims of the law, which they said were to preserve the archaic structures of the creative industries. At the same time, they reiterated their desire to support artists and ensure they receive payment. They proposed a series of amendments which would bring in new models for funding creation, such as the ‘contribution creatif' for file-sharing sites. These proposals put the government on the defensive. Madame Albanel, and the young rapporteur for the law, Franck Riester, were obliged to knock back the proposals, but at did not say how much more money would begoing to artists as a result of the Hadopi law.
Original reporting by iptegrity.com! Please remember to credit us when you write!