The future Hamon law, purged of DRMs?
Paris, 6 May 2013. Press release.
The bill on consumer protection and information introduced by the French Government on 2 May 2013, eve of the International Day Against DRM, apparently tries to suppress consumer information on the presence of digital handcuffs in a product.
The so-called Projet de loi relatif à la consommation (consumer bill) was presented to the Council of Ministers by Benoît Hamon —the Deputy Minister for Social Economy— on 2 May 2013, then (FR) introduced in the National Assembly.
The main purpose of the bill is to set up a class action mechanism1, as well as transpose the 2011 European Consumer Rights Directive. This directive timidly implemented a minimal consumer right to information on DRM (digital handcuffs, misleadingly referred to as "technical protection measures"2). Thus, it is stated in Article 5 of the directive:
Information requirements for contracts other than distance or off-premises contracts
1. Before the consumer is bound by a contract other than a distance or an off-premises contract, or any corresponding offer, the trader shall provide the consumer with the following information in a clear and comprehensible manner, if that information is not already apparent from the context:
g) where applicable, the functionality, including applicable technical protection measures, of digital content;
h) where applicable, any relevant interoperability of digital content with hardware and software that the trader is aware of or can reasonably be expected to have been aware of."
Benoît Hamon's bill drastically limits this information. For instance, Article 4 of the bill reads as follows:
4° Information about his identity and activities, guarantees, functionalities and, where applicable, interoperability of the digital equipment, as well as about the existence and implementation of guarantees and other contractual provisions listed and defined by decree of the Conseil d'État (French highest administrative court)."
This information is thus very limited, and the wording remains vague about which information the consumers should be given. However, consumers often need to be accurately informed on potential DRM, because in a number of cases such locks prevent them from making full use of the products.
"A minimal basis for consumer information is to make sure that the presence of DRM and ensuing restrictions are explicitly mentionned, but actual protection of consumer rights will only be achieved through outright ban of these hateful handcuffs," said Frédéric Couchet, Executive Director of April.
April therefore requests that the bill is amended to enforce consumer rights.
Note that a previous draft of the bill incorporated wording from the directive:
"Art. L. 111-1. – Before the consumer is bound by a contract, the trader shall provide the following information in a clear and comprehensible manner:
8° Where applicable, the functionality, including applicable technical protection measures, of digital content;
9° Where applicable, any relevant interoperability of digital content with hardware and software that the trader is aware of or can reasonably be expected to have been aware of.
These provisions shall also apply to contracts for the supply of water, gas or electricity, where they are not put up for sale in a limited volume or set quantity, of district heating or of digital content which is not supplied on a tangible medium."
In addition, the bill also puts (FR) the blocking of internet sites back on the table.
Pioneer of free software in France, April is since 1996 a major player in the democratisation and the spread of Free Software and open standards to the general public, professionals and institutions in the French-speaking world. In the digital era that is ours, it also aims to inform the public on the dangers of an exclusive appropriation ofinformation an knowledge by private interests.
The association has over 5,000 members, using or producing Free Software.
- 1. The class action described in the bill does not meet our expectations, as explained in our reply to the public consultation conducted by the French government in the fall of 2012.
- 2. For more information on DRM, we invite you to read (FR) April's overview [on this matter].