France is at risk of killing ZeWebDeux

France has astonishing engineering talent, some great entrepreneurs, one of the most benign seed funding environments (thank you state sponsorship) and a multitude of (variable quality) VC funds.  But yet again inappropriate or heavy handed legislative action threatens to kill the Golden Goose.  Can the new Digital Economy  secretary make a difference to the Web2 ?

France is supposed to have the highest number of bloggers per capita.  It also benefits from great broadband infrastructure, with 20Mbps being the standard offering and a number of 100Mbps full duplex offerings appearing.

As a result it has spawned some very interesting success stories, with the standout user successes being Skyblog and DailyMotion (where I am invested).  Oh, and its most famous export, Loic Le Meur :-) 

It’s also got a vibrant community of web2 inspired businesses, such as Deezer or Wikio and many others.

But just like with gaming in the past, the spectre of inappropriate legislation or government policy hangs over this burgeoning segment, presumably partly because of heavy lobbying from the established media players.

My Anglo-Saxon readers no doubt missed this, but the French High Court condemned a Digg-like service called, making it responsible for links posted by one of its users.  As the man behind Fuzz, Mr Eric “Presse Citron” Dupin (photo) duly noted, it feels like the whole affair is just one big misunderstanding.

Eric Dupin

Get this: someone posted some link related to star Olivier Martinez with the link being located in the “people” channel of the site.  The court considered that the fact that there were channels was enough to constitute “publishing” rather than simply “hosting”.  Never mind that (a) the user could have selected the channel or that (b) for all we know the site used automated extraction techniques to determine in which channel the content should be published.  Anyway, at that rate ANY site that relies on user generated publishing will be in trouble soon, and why not every forum launched since 1995 or whilst we are at it.

There have been calls to modify the LCEN or Law for the Confidence in the Digital Economy including suggestions to split the status of hosting provider according to their “level of interaction” with the content.  Given that the judges are already finding it hard to understand how to interpret the law, you can see where this is going…

In steps Eric Besson, the new state secretary in charge of the Digital Economy.  Early signs are that proper concertation will replace the one sided legislative process that has prevailed to date.  It was great to see Besson engaging properly with some of the actors including recording a video at Dailymotion’s own offices.  In fact the whole reason for this post was really the big sigh of relief I experienced in hearing the guy talk and make some sense (finally).

To be fair, this whole story highlights the intense difficulties that the fast evolution of technology generates for the legislative bodies.  Here’s to hoping reason prevails.  Pragmatism is not always the most obvious of French qualities, but the Sarkozy administration seems endowed with much more of it than its predecessors.  PS: Yes, I am from Belgium and no, they never exported “How to Make Friends and Influence People” that far north :-)

Fuzz is appealing the decision.  It’s important for all of us that it wins!

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5 Responses to France is at risk of killing ZeWebDeux

  1. Guillaume says:

    If ZeWeb2 is resumed by websites relating stories of people Like Martinez and Dahan, then yes, attorneys could kill zeweb2.

    But fortunately, their is something else on the web. Dailymotion, that you mentionned is being carrefull about what they have on their site.

    At the end of the day, all this will lead to a place where you will have to be carrefull with what you write. Since the Fuzz deal, I have the impression that you read less crap on french blogs and that people turn their tong in their mouth before writing something.

  2. greg says:

    Great article and I have to add that one of the famous newspaper in France, Le Figaro asked one blogger 150 € for taking the Figaro as a reference in one of it’s post.
    There was non content duplication, the blogger said it was from Le Figaro and put a backlink…
    That’s law Le Figaro can asked that but it seems so old economy for me…

  3. Dear Fred,
    Its been a while since we have touched base.
    I came accross your article on Web 2.0 . Perhaps this article might add to your opinion

  4. Dear Fred,
    Its been a while since we have touched base.
    I came accross your article on Web 2.0 . Perhaps this article might add to your opinion

  5. Sean says:

    “To be fair, this whole story highlights the intense difficulties that the fast evolution of technology generates for the legislative bodies.”

    This is a classic example of the disconnect that emerges with every technological revolution as highlighted by Perez in her seminal work Technological Revolutions and Financial Capital:

    Suddenly, in relation to the new technologies, the old habits and regulations become obstacles, the old services and infrastructures are found wanting, the old organizations and institutions are inadequate. A new context must be created; a new ‘common sense’ must emerge and propagate.

    Studying history we see that changes in the “socio-economic paradigm” always lags changes in the “techno-economic paradigm” (to use Perez’s vocabulary.) The dislocation causes by this rift gives rise to much pain as the “old” ill-adapted social institutions first resist and then struggle to adapt to the “new” technological and economic reality. But it isn’t all bad: disruption at this societal scale gives rise to many many opportunities for the financiers and entrepreneurs that are skilled and daring enough to navigate these ‘rough waters.”