Richard Stallman pushed back by the French Prime Minister's chief of security
On Friday, June 9th 2006 at 3.30pm, Richard Stallman led a delegation composed by Frédéric Couchet (Free Software Foundation France) and Christophe Espern (EUCD.INFO initiative) to meet the French Prime minister. The delegation wanted to talk about the French DRM bill and give the Prime Minister a roll of paper containing the names of the 165,000 individual signatures and 1000 collective signatures (among which those of more than 200 companies such as Sun Microsystems) to the EUCD.INFO petition. Richard Stallman and his friends were held at bay by the Chief of security.
The context of the action :
EUCD.INFO is an initiative which was launched by FSF France (Free Software Foundation France) in December 2002 to fight the French bill on author's rights (named « projet de loi relatif au Droit d'Auteur et Droits Voisins dans la Société de l'Information » DADVSI). This law would implement the EUCD (European equivalent of the DMCA) and drastically change author's rights in France. DADVSI could very well be the worst copyright law in Europe and the DADVSI bill is one of the most important bill being discussed in France today.
You can read more information about DADVSI on :
In December 2005, the EUCD.INFO initiative launched a petition against DADVSI, that requests that the legislative bill be removed from the agenda of the French Parliament. It has been signed by more than 165,000 French residents and by around 1,000 French organizations.
The people behind EUCD.INFO have for months now been actively working to convince the government and the members of parliament to amend the bill. Some of the amendments they've proposed were voted into law by the French Lower chamber («Assemblée Nationale») in March 2006.
The text contained some deplorable provisos, among which the so-called "Vivendi-Universal" amendment, that implements fines and prison terms for the publishing of software "obviously intended" to provide copyrighted works to the public without authorization. But there were also some very positive changes regarding DRM. For instance, the guarantee that DRM not prevent interoperability, and the requirement that the source code for independent software that operates in conjunction with a DRM system be released. These aforementioned amendments were negotiated with deputies from the right and left wings. They were proposed by EUCD.INFO, which has been coordinating this bill's advocacy campaign. Article 7 of the text was a very good for interoperability and it is the only concession the government has made so far.
The legislative procedure continued and the text went to the 2nd chamber where the French Senate did a major revision to the bill. Article 7 was rewritten to omit the guarantee of interoperability. The Senate voted to pass the bill in May 2005. Normally, the bill would be returned to the Lower Chamber for a second reading, but the government has decided to use a shortened "emergency procedure" : a committee of 7 politicians from both chambers will finalize the text in a kind of conciliatory procedure. Most of the players who have been affected by the bill have asked for a second reading in the Lower Chamber.
The action :
The people of EUCD.INFO are in close contact with deputies and the government. Knowing that Richard Stallman was to come to Paris in June, they made use of the diplomatic channels to which they had access. They alerted their contacts and tried to convince them to receive the « father of the Free Software Movement » and allow him to present the EUCD.INFO petition to the Prime Minister and discuss the bill.
They sent off an official request for an audience and invested a lot of time in speaking with government officials and advisers. Considering these multiple appeals for an audience, and in light of the fact that the DADVSI bill has been a hot political topic in France, and that, if passed, it will have a critical impact on French the main advisers to the Prime Minister were perfectly aware of the importance of a meeting with Richard Stallman. Receiving him did not present a logistical problem. It presented a political one, no doubt exacerbated by influences from lobbies like Vivendi's. In fact, in December 2005, under EUCD.INFO pressure, the government rapidly organized a meeting with several representatives of the Free Software industry, showing that responsiveness to citizens' request is possible when it understands where its interest is.
The government made no such effort this time, and having failed to get an appointment with the Prime Minister, EUCD.INFO decided to go to Matignon (the official residence of the French Prime minister) on Friday, June 9th at 3:30 pm, to present a roll of paper (the 17-meter long banner) containing the 165,000 individual and 1000 collective signatures (among which those of more than 200 companies such as Sun Microsystems). EUCD.INFO warned journalists to get photos and press reports.
Richard Stallman, with the help of Frédéric Couchet (Free Software Foundation France) and Christophe Espern (EUCD.INFO initiative), led the delegation. But he and his friends were held at bay by the Chief of Security, who stated: « the decision not to receive Richard Stallman was made after mature reflexion.»
This apparently negative outcome was nonetheless fruitful, especially in terms of media and public feedback, as it showed that proprietary software and Free Software are in fact treated differently by the French government. Earlier in the week, the Ministry of Education had launched a propaganda campaign in the schools that was nothing more than advertisement for Microsoft's products and « trusted computing.»
In an article, FSF France's Frédéric Couchet, evokes the difference in treatment « between the reception of Bill Gates as a Head of State by the President of the Republic and that of Richard Stallman by Matigon's Chief of Security.» Richard Stallman believes to have the explanation: «Gates is the emperor, we are only citizens », he said.
The French press insists on the intolerability of this difference of treatment. All this seems to have been having an effect on the deputies and EUCD.INFO launched a mobilization campaign this past Friday asking its supporters to put further pressure on their representatives to oppose any attempt by the government to force the passage of this repressive bill.
Here are some photos.
Three press articles (in French) :
On this photo there is the back of the chief of security team, Frédéric Couchet, Christophe Espern, Benjamin Drieu (APRIL member) and Richard Richard Stallman.
Another good photo with Richard Stallman, Christophe Espern, Frédéric Couchet and policemen.
The banner is on that photo.
Later Richard participed un a flash mob against DRM in a local Fnac store (a cultural superstore). Around one hundred people were present. Some photos are available.
More information about DADVSI :
Some photos : (taken by http://www.tofz.org) :
The delegation (from left to right : Christophe Espern, Frédéric Couchet and Richard Stallman) (large photo):
The delegation and policemen (large photo):
The delegation and the chief of the security team of Matignon (large photo):
Richard Stallman unrolls the EUCD.INFO petition (large photo):
The petition in the gutter (large photo):