The life of a “Hadopi Labs” expert – 1

By | 12/02/2011

I have been recently nominated as one of the seven Hadopi labs experts.

I have never liked the Hadopi law. I wrote this publicly on my blog, in french and in english. I deeply believe that it does protect the past and does prevent innovation in the business models of music, and content in a broad sense. However, when I was approached to be an expert, I eventually said yes.

The implementation and follow-up of the Hadopi law is performed by a French “Haute autorité“, the equivalent of a regulatory agency or independant regulatory commission in the US, or a Quango in the Commonwealth. This agency (cf. their web site in french) has decided to set-up an original structure : an internal think tank, open to everybody, whose goal is to feed the managing members of the agency (seven people), and in turn the legislator, and the whole community, with modern ideas around the equation “Internet and digital rights”.

Information about Hadopi law is to be found in this wikipedia article. The French music industry, backed by some artists who were totally upset by illegal downloading, put the pressure onto the government to pass a law that would strongly punish such illegal downloading. At the very first start of this move, Hadopi has been highly controversial, between those who wanted to protect traditional copyright system, a trend which is also to be found in ACTA, and those who claimed it was a law against freedom, which some wikileaked document about ACTA seems to say, at least in the ACTA context. As many geeks and hackers were in the second category, it has been very easy for them to show how this law was technically impossible to work properly, because of many turn around. My personal view is that the music industry is experiencing another shift in its business model, based on an economy of abundance rather than on an economy of scarcity, and that this new paradigm shifts away from traditional marketing based on famous artists, a model opposed to the long tail model. And, of course, the traditional music industry protects itself from such a shift, with the fear to lose power and business.

Back to the labs. There are five of them (sorry for the web site in French only) : one devoted to “Network and technology”, one devoted to “Digital economy of content creation”, one devoted to “Online Usages”, one devoted to “Internet and Intellectual Property”, and one devoted to “Internet and Society”. Even though I was against Hadopi, I was approached by Eric Walter, the CEO of the agency, to manage one of the labs. My first question was “should I say yes”, but as I am more a man of bridge than a man of wall, I found funny to change things from inside Hadopi, rather than criticize it from the outside. I am not alone in this situation, two other of the seven experts, Bruno Spiquel and Jean-Michel Planche, are famous for being against the law. My second reaction was that this structure was in a traditional silo mode, which has proven to be inefficient when it is about managing the complexity of the world. And, for sure, the music industry in the Internet era is a complex system. As Bruno had the same reaction, we both of us have been named “associate expert in charge of transversal coherence”, whatever this mean. The other experts, Nathalie Sonnac, Cécil Méadel, Christophe Alleaume, and Paul Mathias, are academic people who did lots of interesting research on the topic of their respective labs.

The labs are supposed to work in an open cooperative mode, and to produce content co-created with anyone interested in the topic, and willing to bring value. Needless to say that many opponent to the law have criticized this process, and rejected, sometimes in very rude terms, the call for co-production. However, contributors have started applying, and the redaction process will start, with the goal to have by mid year a first bunch of content available.

The adventure is only starting, the official launch of the labs was February 2nd. It is not an easy task. One of the mission we gave ourself, as associate experts, was to introduce the philosophy of the Internet in both the working method, and the output of the labs. Apart from the rejection by a part of the community, against which we cannot do anything, one of the major issue is the difference of speed between the internal production of document, and the external reaction.  This was quite obvious the first working group day, and it reminded me why you should never go to the première of an opera : the lower part of the audience is low in energy, while the upper part is high.

I will keep on publishing about the life of an expert on this blog.

The Labs can be followed on @labshadopi or on the #labs hashtag.


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