French Consider Legalized P2P

France’s parliamentary lower house has approved a law that would make the downloading of unlicensed music and movies from peer-to-peer (P2P) services legal with a monthly royalty fee of about US$8 per user.

While the law is far from final, it evoked sharp criticism from the French music and film industry, which complained the unlimited downloading of unlicensed works would be devastating to their business.

The law is similar to what Canadian officials have approved, whereby users pay a royalty fee for hardware and downloading from P2P services is legal, but uploading and sharing is not. Industry analysts said there are issues with the model, which makes distribution of royalty fees a challenge and which still encourages unlicensed P2P services to operate.

“It raises the question if uploading is illegal and downloading is legal, the downloads have to come from somewhere,” Jupiter Research vice president Michael Gartenberg told TechNewsWorld.

Filesharing Freedom

Although the French approval of legalized downloads of music and films from unlicensed P2P services came in the nation’s lower house with a number of parliamentary officials absent, it highlights a different approach than in the U.S., where any unlicensed file-sharing is illegal and P2P downloaders have been sued by entertainment industry groups in a number of high-profile cases.

Gartenberg said the approach brings up the issue of an Internet tax that would apparently apply to all French Internet users, regardless of whether they are downloading.

The analyst added the distribution of royalty fees is another issue, and contended the law still does not address the core problem of unlicensed P2P services.

“That is ensuring the people who own the content are properly compensated,” he said.

Willing to Pay

Gartenberg contrasted the French approach to the U.S., where groups such as the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) have pursued legal action against filetraders, and where legal services are readily available.

“The key here is, as long as a vast majority of users have a way of getting legal content, they’re willing to pay for it,” he said.

Nevertheless, Gartenberg said it would be interesting to see if the French law wins final approval.

Industry Influence

Yankee Group senior analyst Mike Goodman told TechNewsWorld even though the French law has not been approved by the government there, it is no doubt causing distress among the entertainment industry.

He said the proposed approach — which mirrors what Canada has done in terms of allowing downloads, but forbidding uploads and sharing — shows the significant differences between France and the U.S. both in governance and in industry influence.

“A statute like this is much more likely to come out of Europe, where the entertainment industry is not as powerful of a force,” he said.

Still, Goodman predicted the French content owners are likely to protest the proposed approach.

“I’m sure there’s going to be a very intense lobbying effort to try and stall it,” he said.

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