Why do we fight the DADVSI bill ?
Creating your own compilations from a CD, extracting your favourite piece of music to listen to it on your computer, transfering it on a MP3 player, lending a CD to a friend, reading a DVD with free software or duplicating it to be able to enjoy it at home and in your country house : many common practices, perfectly legal, which the French government plans to forbid in fact. The copyright and neighbouring rights in the information society bill (DADVSI) (n°1206) which the French government will try to force through in the coming weeks by using an emergency procedure, actually legitimates the technical devices installed by CD and DVD editors and producers to control their use. And above all, the bill plans criminal penalty against people who would dare to remove those.
In addition to killing off the right to private copying while keeping the fees associated to it, according to the DADVSI bill, the simple act of using software to read a DVD that is not authorized by the DVD editor could lead up to a 3-year jail sentence and a 300 000 Euros fine. Such behavior is considered as a copyright infringement offense. This would be just like if a book editor imposed a specific spectacle trademark to read the books he got printed, and that any reader bold enough to read these books with other glasses would be a "pirate".
The act of converting to MP3 format a "protected" file that was downloaded from the FNAC website is also considered as infringement, this is also true for publishing technical information (such as source code) allowing or making it easier to perform such conversions. In this way, the DADVSI bill prohibits, designing, distributing and using free software that would allow accessing protected work. If the bill is approved in its present state, it will be illegal to use software like VLC (several million downloads) or any other multimedia player using the DeCSS algorithm. This algorith will be - as such - forbidden.
Knowingly bringing to light, directly or indirectly, a tool prohibited by the bill is also punished, whether or not the main purpouse of this tool is not to bypass the protection (playing a DVD for example). There is a good reason why the EUCD directive does not require this. It leaves the door open to censorship. The freedom of expression, not only of free software authors, but also of computer security researchers, academics and journalists, is directly threatened.
Knowingly bringing to light, directly or indirectly, a tool or a method allowing to remove or alter information attached to a digital copy of a document to trace it's usage is also punished by law. Therefore, tomorrow, you could risk a 3-year jail sentence for publishing a study that shows that a digital signature method used by the recording industry is ineffective. In the United States of America where a similar law already has already existed for several years (the DMCA), several computer security researchers fearing prosecution, have chosen to auto-censor themselves even though they were only doing their job.
Moreover, the bill could further divide French society between those who have access to digital information and those who don't, given that for the first time, authors, editors and producers will be able to deny private copying to those who have not purchased the appropriate user license. In concrete terms, these conditions change the right to read in an exclusive right since usage control software, by its very nature, use access control mechanisms, and without access, you cannot read. In fact, only users who can afford to purchase a user license will be able to read an orginal or private copy, even though the right to access published work or the right to read do not depend on the author's monopoly.
Letting your little sister listen to music stored in your MP3 player while you are away could become impossible even though it is allowed by law. Some portable video player already feature biometric access control (finger prints in this case). In concrete terms, if the process reaches its conclusion, the simple act of storing information for private use could dissapear, with all this implies regarding freedom of thought, opinion and right to information. Oppositely, any access to information protected by copyright could be traced in order to control usage or to bill the act, with all the risks this implies for privacy and protection of personal data.