Bizarre French Anti-piracy Strategy

This is the most bizarre but imaginative strategy I have heard of yet. And like many other anti-piracy strategies seems like a weak band aid.

For the next two years the French govt will subsidize half – that’s right half – the cost of a 50 euro ($70 USD) card to be used to download music from approved subscription-based online retailers. Consumers will be limited to one card a year.

Somewhere between a social service debit card and a tax break, this strategy appears to be both an admission of powerlessness in the face of piracy and also an assertion of state involvement that on the surface seems to run counter the “hands off” anti-regulatory ethos of neoliberalism and the Sarkozy regime. Additionally, this is a great example of the intensification of state surveillance regimes, surely there must be a way to then gauge the “taste” of the nation, or even to index the number of music files a person possesses against the number they buy with the card – any discrepancy and its the gulag for you! Alas, it may also be another case of the state funneling of public resources toward private interests. And this time, instead of a bailout to the finance industry, this is a way to direct tax payers’ money toward “legitimate subscription-based services.” It’s hard not to see how this doesn’t amount to paying twice. It also doesn’t seem clear if this is about nurturing French cultural production specifically, or just ensuring that for-profit distributors get a slice of the pie. However, in exchange for state aid

website operators will be required to cut the price of music, extend the duration of subscriptions, and contribute to the cost of advertising the card. Their benefit will be capped at 5 million euros each.

That said it also seems a rather ingenious way to promote cultural awareness and listening to music. I can’t imagine a British or North American government so blatantly funding the consumption of artistic work. Here we cut arts funding and gut humanities departments in universities. What else could be next: a tax break for every theatre ticket purchased? A granting system for reading materials? Still, if there’s a mood for state involvement these days, why not a lump sum to the download services and performing rights agencies via a blank media levy like we had on blank tapes and CDs and then let everyone download away? I’ve seen studies that suggest support for this. Or, even better, why not scrap the whole notion of state support for for-profit entities (not very “free market” anyway is it?) and instead support people with a universal living minimum wage that would also account for the purchase of cultural/creative works, which, following food, I’d say are pretty important for a well-nourished soul.

See also here.

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