3Nicolas Sarkozy Is the Pirate His Laws Are Meant to Eliminate
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The policies of former French president Nicolas Sarkozy were effectively legislated out of existence after he failed to win re-election last year. That is, with one gigantic exception. Sarkozy introduced a massive anti-piracy effort in France during his reign that gives copyright violators two warnings before cutting off their access to the Web altogether.
"Ideally, we'd have some way to make their routers kick them in the nuts."
And according to those very loose rules of his own legislation, Sarkozy should have been banned from using the Internet a long time ago.
His first misstep in relation to France's rude and smelly copyright laws was at his own campaign stops. In 2009, he made several public appearances where the song "Kids" by MGMT, which admittedly sounds exactly what you think a French presidential campaign song should sound like ...
... was used without the band's permission. Lawyers intervened, and the Sarkozy campaign had to fork over 30,000 euros to settle things without the situation devolving into the most dance-friendly legal squabble in French history. It was an embarrassing slip-up, especially in light of the fact that a vote on whether to implement the anti-piracy laws we're discussing now was just a few short weeks away.
Hey, that's just one strike, though, and by French law, Sarkozy was still in the clear. But he would fall out of step with approved fair use practices again just a few months later when it was discovered that his "audiovisual service" was making illegal copies of Sarkozy's own propaganda videos.
Why would they do that? Well, when a firm called Galaxie Press produced a documentary about the president, they only shipped 50 copies, because who is honestly going to want to watch that boring shit, you know? Apparently, the answer to that question is "450," because Sarkozy had his campaign whip up an additional 400 discs to meet the overwhelming demand. They even went so far as to change the name of the producer on the forged discs, because the producer name is obviously where you look first if you're wondering if a DVD is legitimate. Somehow, that brilliant bit of deception wasn't enough to throw anyone off the scent. Strike two! Or Strike 401, depending on how you're counting.
2Viacom Lays Claim to a County Board of Education Campaign Video
Chris Knight / Viacom / Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images
We could fill an entire article -- or book -- with nonsensical YouTube takedown notices by copyright holders (who could forget the infamous case of Universal Music demanding a takedown of some toddlers dancing to a radio playing Prince?). But perhaps no single example best conveys the system's absurdity and hypocrisy like the time Christopher Knight saw a corporate giant use his video and then demand that he take down his copy of their copy of his video. Confused?
Well, it started in 2006 when North Carolina politician Christopher Knight became an overnight Internet celebrity thanks to a geeky-as-all-get-out Star Wars-themed campaign commercial:
It became such a big deal that VH1's Web Junk 20 (the Tosh.0 of its day) featured the video on the air:
Pretty sweet for a guy who was just running for a spot on the board of education. So, rather than take offense to the fact that MTV's trashy cousin was using his work for profit, Knight posted their version of his video on his YouTube page, praising the touches of corporate comedy added to his homegrown video sensation. And that's when things got strange.
Not long after posting the Web Junk 20 clip, Knight received a notice from YouTube that, due to a DMCA claim from VH1's parent company, Viacom, the video was taken down. That's right: The video he made now somehow belonged to Viacom, and they were willing to get litigious to make sure it stayed that way. It seems absurd that he even had to remind everyone that he was the one who made the commercial that provided the basis for the entire Web Junk 20 clip in the first place. It seems downright criminal that Viacom acknowledged this point and still insisted that Knight take the video down.
Christopher Knight for School Board
Massive organizations using unreasonable force on plucky upstarts never backfires.
According to Viacom's logic, the fact that they added additional commentary gave them grounds to claim copyright over everything in the Web Junk 20 clip.
In accordance with YouTube guidelines, Knight responded by filing a DMCA counterclaim. This meant that Viacom either had to file an official lawsuit charging Knight with copyright infringement or allow the video to be restored to the lowly county board candidate's YouTube page. After the story began generating negative press for Viacom, they relented and allowed Knight to post the video. How very gracious of them.