The Closing of the Net  "original and valuable"  Times Higher Education

Creation and Internet law (Hadopi law) debate day 2.


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 privacy

guarantees, 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.




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