Hadopi, Google, and a few illegal things

We European have strange laws. The French Hadopi law is a law that is intended to protect copyright owners against big bad teenage copiers. That law has been voted, and it is in the process of being enacted. Of course, it won’t work; such laws just don’t work.

ReadWriteWeb has published an article about Hadopi economics (in French, sorry). I will try to provide a quick outline here, but it’s far better to read the full thing.

Before Hadopi, the music industry was losing money because many French youngsters exchanged “free” music through P2P, helped by The Pirate Bay and similar organizations, who made no real money out of this. Then came the law, directly targeting the use of P2P tools. Such exchanges are now monitored, and it looks quite dangerous to continue doing it (after all, if you get caught three times, you can lose your Internet connection).

Well, using P2P is dangerous, but using direct downloads from servers sitting outside of France remains safe (it seems to tbe the way the law is applied). So now, the effect of the law is to promote a new technology. So far, nothing big: the law is just not working, and it isn’t the first one. It gets better when you realize that the companies providing the new technology are actually making money from it. Pirates are paying for the ability to download content illegally.

Now, that makes a big difference. The law has created a viable business model, possibly an entire ecosystem. Most likely illegal in France, but hosted in countries in which such laws can’t be enforced, and ready to move in a few minutes when needed. And guess what? On the other side, the music industry still doesn’t have a viable business model for selling their music. Conclusion; the law is not only inefficient, it is counter-productive, because it builds a viable (although illegal) alternative to the legal music industry.

In Italy, they have privacy laws that prohibit the publication of images that make fun of people, especially if they can’t defend themselves; such a law defends human dignity. That’s a good law, and it got some Google executives comdemned to suspended prison terms over the publication of an offending video on Youtube. Google calls this a serious threat to the Web, and gathered support from many. That’s because their role is very limited in this; after all, they only acted as a hosting platform. That’s true, but … they also made money from that video, because Google also is an ad broker who displays advertising on Youtube pages. And when I look at it from that perspective, I don’t just see a hosting platform operator.

I see a company that makes money by exploiting illegal material in a highly profitable ecosystem. The internet is great: with all its shades of grey, we have to love it.

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