Digital Crimes at the Elysée

One noteworthy French media institution which I don’t deal with at all on this site is the Chained Duck, or Le Canard Enchaîné, a “satirical weekly” newspaper that comes out each Wednesday, and which has a long history going back to 1915. I don’t deal with it partly because its unique brand of journalism – similar to the late-lamented British magazine Punch, but with even more of a political bite – by its very nature is highly idiomatic, but mainly because its website indeed looks much like you would expect a website to have looked like in 1915, if there had been websites then.

To some extent that publication’s non-approachability is a shame, because its reporters do perform some serious journalism (before twisting it up in the house humor-style) and achieve scoops. Fortunately, no less than France’s own “grey lady” of journalism, Le Monde, considered Le Canard’s latest revelation to be worth taking up and passing along on its own pages (When the Elysée practices piracy).

First off, you need to know that the Elysée Palace is where the President of the French Republic lives, so that these days Elysée basically means “Nicolas Sarkozy” the way “White House” means “Barack Obama.” And it does seem that Président Sarkozy has engaging in a bit of piracy lately, or at least his people have. A documentary was shown on French television this past summer about him (actually, the evening before Bastille Day); it was part of a series called À visage découvert, or “With discovered face,” produced by Galaxie Presse. He must have liked it, because his office shortly thereafter asked Galaxie Presse to send along fifty DVD copies of the show for them to distribute further. It turned out, however, that they ended up distributing at least 400, and each such DVD carried the mark not of Galaxie Presse, but rather the seal of the President of the Republic along with the accompanying highly-ironic and minatory text “Audio-visual service of the president of the Republic – All rights reserved (photos and video).”

Further investigation by Canard reporters revealed that the Director of Galaxie Presse, Michel Rager, certainly had never been informed of the Elysée’s intentions to play a bit of a “loafs-and-fishes” game with the original fifty DVDs his company had provided – for free. The real point here, of course, is that France in recent years has taken the lead within Europe in instituting legal penalties against the illegal downloading and copying of digital materials; as the reaction from reader “Pirate” that Le Monde puts off to the right side of this piece points out, the illegal-copying action of the president’s office is supposed to bring criminal penalties of up to three years in jail and a €300,000 fine. The word “hypocrisy” in French, by the way, is easy enough for anyone to remember: hypocrisie.

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