An Open Letter to the the French President Nicolas Sarkozy

Mr. President,

I am writing you on my very own behalf.

I have a bone to pick with you, and the readers of my blog should know my opinion in regards to what you and your government are trying to do to the Internet in the name of the so-called French culture. So in respect of the international audience of this blog, I am compelled to address you in English.

Mr President, interestingly enough, it seems that you and I have something in common. You and I share origins that are not similar, but that are not entirely foreign. We both come from families that have grown out of France, and who returned to France because of the tragedies of History. Yet regardless of those tragedies, I think our respective families have taught us both to love our country, its culture and its traditions.

Culture, and more precisely French culture, strikes me today as being something you and I have come to disagree on. Your “ Three Strikes” approach to what is referred to as the “ Internet Piracy” appears to me and many others as failing to address today’s challenges of our connected world while depriving citizens and businesses alike from the most elementary rights. Is this your solution to preserving the French culture?

Mr President, what is going on both at the European Parliament and at our national Parliament as well will not refrain users from downloading files and sharing content on the Internet. It will however create a legal environment where free information sharing and freedom of expression will be reduced and controlled like they are in Burma or in Iran. Is this an exaggeration? Am I overreacting? No, I am not. The reasoning put forth to “stop the piracy on the Internet” is that it “ kills the artistic creation”.

This calls for three major objections:

First, “killing the artistic creation” does not mean what it initially seems to. By framing the issue at hand as an attempted murder on the artistic creation, some lobbies effectively claim the control of said artistic creation. This claim should come as a highly suspicious opinion likely propagated by some industries (the record labels for instance) that have shown themselves unwilling to amend their business models over the years. You will notice, Sir, that we’re now discussing “business models” and not “artistic creation” any more. The truth is that artistic creation does not need a fixed business model. In fact, it does not need any business model to strive. I do not think that the composer of our national anthem, Rouget-de-Lisle, needed a record studio and advanced marketing techniques to spread “La Marseillaise”. All that was needed was genius and genuine popularity, something that seems to have been lost in the shrines of forgotten Art with the advent of marketing and record labels. I do not think that Charles Baudelaire ever needed to make sure no one was copying his books so that he could make a living from them. Coming from such a man who was being strongly censored in France until May 1968, it would have been somewhat ludicrous. To summarize my point Mr President, what we are talking about is the survival of middlemen in a changing industry, not Art. Art is doing fine without you or anybody else messing with it.

Second, this “ Internet Piracy” as some call it, is a vague concept. What we do know about it is that millions and millions of French citizens “do it”. Millions and millions of French do this on a monthly, weekly, and daily basis. We are thus not talking about a loose group of terrorists, much less one ethnic category that is too easily singled out. We are talking about the actual population of our country and of the European Union. So let me summarize, Mr President, what we have so far: A legislative project that aims to deprive millions of citizens of their rights, for the exclusive benefit of an industry that has to date, not accomplished anything for the benefit of mankind. Where I come from, Sir, this looks like a special interest group who is trying to keep the money flowing in the same pockets as it has been for the past sixty years. Surely your convincing stance on the need to reform our country will overcome this contradiction. You promised the French people a “ rupture”. I hope you will not give them a pathetic “break up”.

Third and last, I would like to point out what I believe to be a lack of coherence with the rationale put forth in this project. In order to protect the artistic creation, you are essentially giving the means to a “ happy few” to control our culture. These people have an obvious business interest in this control, but what they do not have is a vested interest in raising the cultural level of our citizens, nor do they share a common interest in making our culture survive and strive in our globalized world. I am thus left with a bitter taste in my mouth when I see the French Government pushing for an agenda that has nothing to do with culture but everything with money and private interests and nothing to do with freedom but everything to do with oppression.

This, is simply not acceptable of a country like France. People should not be forced to live their cultural lives based on how a secretive but powerful lobby would like them to, and oppressive measures should not be enforced against a whole population just because those “happy few” refused to accept that the world has changed since the 1960’s. Culture does not work that way, but one particular industry does, and if it does not change it will die.

A last word, Mr President. I love my country too much to think that the French culture, that is supposedly “in danger,” is a subculture of made up pop singers and evanescent starlets. Not everyone that speaks, writes and sings in French is worth to promote because a record label, or a publisher has acquired its rights and claims it’s the best thing since sliced bread. Perhaps you will remember that no one wanted to read François Villon and so many others; yet they are now considered to be national treasures. Forced consent is not an art. Delusion is not culture.

I therefore ask you, Mr President, to stop this unfair, lobby-inspired legislative agenda on the “Three Strikes” approach and trust you will see truth and fairness in this request.

Best regards,

Charles-H. Schulz.

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