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In France, Only Journalists Can Film Violence 531

Posted by kdawson
from the possibly-intended-consequences dept.
BostonBTS sends word that the French Constitutional Council has just made it illegal to film violence unless you are a professional journalist (or to distribute a video containing violence). The law was approved exactly 16 years after amateur videographer George Holliday filmed Los Angeles police officers beating Rodney King. The Council was tidying up a body of law about offenses against the public order, and wanted to ban "happy slapping." A charitable reading would be that the lawmakers stumbled into unintended consequences. Not according to Pascal Cohet, a spokesman for French online civil liberties group Odebi: "The broad drafting of the law so as to criminalize the activities of citizen journalists unrelated to the perpetrators of violent acts is no accident, but rather a deliberate decision by the authorities, said [Cohet]. He is concerned that the law, and others still being debated, will lead to the creation of a parallel judicial system controlling the publication of information on the Internet."
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In France, Only Journalists Can Film Violence

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @06:56PM (#18256112)
    Let's hope security camera footage doesn't count.

    Were the French tired of all the car-burning footage?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by creimer (824291)
      It's not the car-burning footage. It's the politicians-partying-while-Paris-burns footage that French officials didn't like.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Lord Balto (973273)
        I suspect the EU will have something to say about this. I can't imagine this will not be shot down as a violation of free speech.
  • Workaround (Score:5, Interesting)

    by lawpoop (604919) on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @06:57PM (#18256124) Homepage Journal
    So, what do you have to do in order to be considered a journalist in France?
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by lohphat (521572)
      Surrender?
      • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

        by multisync (218450)

        So, what do you have to do in order to be considered a journalist in France?

        Surrender?


        Like this? [sptimes.com]
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Dun Malg (230075)

          So, what do you have to do in order to be considered a journalist in France?

          Surrender?

          Like this? [sptimes.com]

          Yeah... you know, if you actually look at the history of Vietnam, we were on the wrong side. Ho Chi Minh was our ally against the Japanese in WW2. While he claimed to be a communist, he was definitely one of the "early" type, with more in common with western revolutionaries than the later Stalinists. if you read his writings, look at his upbringing, you see a definite "commie of convenience". He was a patriot. A nationalist. He really didn't give a crap which superpower gave his side aid in Vietnam's war o

    • What We're Doing (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Doc Ruby (173196) on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @07:06PM (#18256258) Homepage Journal
      To be a journalist, you should have to publish what you record. What other business does the government have in defining a journalist, except the essential operation that defines them.

      And if you don't publish, then how is it illegal to have a record of what your own senses experienced?

      Why should media corporations that officials prefer have all the privileges? Already many amateur bloggers are better than practically all the pro journalists working today.
      • by saskboy (600063)
        Well said. The act of uploading recorded events makes the recorder/uploader a journalist. The media is the message, and the message defines a journalist?
        • by pnewhook (788591) on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @09:03PM (#18257416)

          Well said. The act of uploading recorded events makes the recorder/uploader a journalist. The media is the message, and the message defines a journalist?
          What a crock. Someone who merely uploads recorded events (like a blog) is no more a journalist than someone who changes the oil in his car is a mechanic or someone who assembles his Ikea furniture is an Engineer.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by lawpoop (604919)
        "To be a journalist, you should have to publish what you record. What other business does the government have in defining a journalist, except the essential operation that defines them."

        Is this opinion based on French jurisprudence? This sounds suspiciously American. I don't really know much about the French system, but they may not have a constitution, or any natural rights inherent in their system. The government might have total authority to define who a journalist is.

        I just did some preliminary googl
        • by GiovanniZero (1006365) on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @07:35PM (#18256636) Homepage Journal
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Declaration_of_the_Ri ghts_of_Man_and_of_the_Citizen [wikipedia.org]

          They do indeed have something akin to the constitution which guarantees human rights as well as freedom of speech.

          As someone that loves france (I lived there for a few years) I'm so deeply saddened by this horrible choice they've made. I suspect it won't stand but that remains to be seen. France has been a forward thinker in human rights for so many years(they're one of the only nations in Europe to accept refugees and grant asylum) which just adds the the craziness of this law.

          France's motto, Liberté, égalité, fraternité or (Liberty, Equality, Brotherhood) doesn't seem very well upheld by this new law which does not grant liberty, removes equality and is very unlikely to foster any brotherhood.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Doc Ruby (173196)
          No, this opinion is based on simple reason, the kind recognized universally in France and the US by reasonable people. The French just made up a seriously defective ruling in a new exercise of "jurisprudence" that defies sensibility. They've got the French constitutional credentials, but not the basis in legitimacy.

          You might want to google for droit de regard [google.com], the long French controversy over rights to public photography. And if you speak French, you should explain it to these French lawmakers. But first yo
    • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

      by SengirV (203400)
      Get a state approved license.

      So where are all the French loving leftist now?
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by linguae (763922)

        Remember, the left-right spectrum is an economic spectrum, ranging from pure communism at the far left to pure capitalism at the far right, and everything in between. Not all leftists believe in civil liberties (look at Stalin, Mao, and Castro, for example). Respect of civil liberties are represented on a different scale.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by jmorris42 (1458) *
          > Not all leftists believe in civil liberties...

          No true leftist/progressive/socialist believes in -individual- civil liberties. They pay lip service to group rights but don't believe in that either. In the end all left theory boils down to the individual is a meaningless cog in the system who has no inalienable rights, existing only to serve the state.

          You really can't have civil liberties as we commonly understand them without the economic and property rights that make them real. You can't really have
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by gustafsd (1006935)
            Please, if you're going to criticize "leftists" you could at least do it in a reasonable way and not use straw man rhetorics [wikipedia.org]. Maybe you should read a little about social liberalism and social democracy instead of focusing on "those god damned commies". Or maybe that would leave you without arguments? Sorry, but the world isn't just black and white.
          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by EzInKy (115248)

            No true leftist/progressive/socialist believes in -individual- civil liberties.


            No true rightist/conservative/facist believes that all men are created equal. They pay lip service to everyone competing on level playing fields but in the end all right theory boils down to those not born with a silver spoon in their mouths existing only to feed the rich.

            You really can't have civil liberties as we commonly understand them when there are people who are denied even such basic human needs as education and health ca
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by mcvos (645701)

            No true leftist/progressive/socialist believes in -individual- civil liberties.

            Could you be any more wrong? Many true leftists believe in individual liberties. And many rightists don't. See, the thing is, the liberty-authority scale is completely orthogonal to the left-right (socialism-capitalism) scale. While communist Russia was a good example of a leftist state without individual rights, many capitalist systems don't respect individual either. Ever heard of Pinochet? One of the most extreme laissez-f

        • by Pfhorrest (545131) on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @11:30PM (#18258362) Homepage Journal
          Remember, the left-right spectrum is an economic spectrum, ranging from pure communism at the far left to pure capitalism at the far right, and everything in between. Not all leftists believe in civil liberties (look at Stalin, Mao, and Castro, for example). Respect of civil liberties are represented on a different scale.

          The left-right spectrum is not a purely economic one. In its original sense, the Left were those in favor of individual liberty (of both the economic and civil variety), what we today would call Libertarians in America, or Liberals in Europe; while the Right were those in favor of maintaining elitist control of both person and property. After that original Left pretty much won in most of the world, a new Left emerged advocating socialist/communist economic policies; and for a while, the Left-Right divide was almost a purely economic one, with everyone generally in favor of civil liberty, and the Right now those opposed to the socialist reforms, as opposed to the new Left. Some of those on the "new left" even went so far as to completely reverse most of the benefits gained by the old Left, like those totalitarians you named.

          But there are still vestiges of the older Right around, though they now ostensibly support capitalism (though what they really support is themselves being rich and powerful), and in recent years they've been gaining power again (ironically under the banner of the "new Right"). Trying to fit all four of these positions (the old Left; the new Left; the new Right; and the totalitarians you mentioned, who are not too different from the old Right) onto a linear spectrum is futile; the new Left and Right aren't further along the same axis as their old counterparts, they're along a different axis entirely. The old Left-Right was a pure battle between authority and liberty. The new Left-Right is, quite literally, orthogonal to that (on a Nolan chart at least). The modern Right sides with the old Left on economic issues, and the modern Left sides more with the old Right on economic issues; and more perplexingly, those with authoritarian positions most similar to the old Right are now most often considered Leftist (like those you mentioned), while those with libertarian positions most similar to the old Left are now considered Rightist!

          But it's all a big bag of hooey anyway. The only consistent meaning to "Left" and "Right" are "progressive", generally support by the underdogs, who want a change for their own betterment; and "conservative", generally supported by the big dogs on top who don't want their comfy spot in life disturbed. These notions map well to the origins of the terms (the commoners on the Left of parliament and the lords on the Right), but they don't evaluate consistently into any particular position on either civil or economic matters, because what's new today will be old in a few generations, and what's old today will become new again.
    • Ironically, you must only be wielding a video camera... Don't ask me.. I think the lawmakers were drunk on wine. :)
      TLF
      • by lawpoop (604919)
        If that's true, that means that only the videographer can publish the video -- no third party.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by mattgy (174086)
      You need one of these [ccijp.net].
  • by rob1980 (941751) on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @06:58PM (#18256136)
    And in Soviet Russia, only violence can film journalists!
  • by mjmalone (677326) * on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @06:59PM (#18256162) Homepage
    Sounds like their intent was to create something more like the Good Samaritan laws [wikipedia.org], when something went horribly wrong. Trying to get people to help citizens in need is one thing, but this goes a bit too far... I'm not too clear on the workings of the French government, does the Constitutional Council the last step in the process of becoming a law, or are there additional hurdles?
    • by Noryungi (70322) on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @07:16PM (#18256376) Homepage Journal
      The French Constitutional Council has a position similar to the U.S. Supreme Court, except it only rules to decide whether or not a law is constitutional (respects the French Constitution of the Vth Republic, Human Rights, etc).

      Another difference with the U.S. Supreme Court is that it can actually be seized (by Members of Parliament) before a law is voted on by Parliament itself. For instance, if some people introduce a law saying Linux is illegal and should be banned, it is highly possible that the Constitutional Council would be seized by MPs sympathetic to Linux. It is therefore, considered as the guardian of the Constitution and of Human Rights.

      On the other hand, it is sad to note that its evolution has also mimicked the recent evolution of the U.S. Supreme Court: President Jacques Chirac has packed the Constitutional Council with conservative (sometimes ultra-conservatives) judges, people who can be extremely authoritarian (by French standards -- they would be considered as dangerous lefties in the U.S.) and sympathetic to his positions. And these positions probably include a lot of censorship of the Internet.

      So, IMHO, it's not a surprise this stupid law is now passed in France. The ultimate appeal, of course, would be for a French Citizen to bring his/her case to the European Court of Human Rights, which could overturn the Constitutional Council decision as well as any and all court decision on such a matter. But that would probably take years of hard legal work, with all legal fees you can imagine.

      Yes, this is bad news. As a French citizen, I am personally ashamed the Constitutional Council has taken such a position, especially since, as you mentioned, "happy slapping" videos could already be prosecuted under French Law as not helping someone in danger (Good Samaritan Law?), or even as being an accomplice to assault and battery. In France, if you see something, you have to do something!

      In short: stupid, stupid, stupid. And shameful, to boot.
  • by Shadow Wrought (586631) * <shadow...wrought@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @06:59PM (#18256170) Homepage Journal
    How are you supposed to film something you're running away from?
    • by Anonymous Coward
      The so-called "happy slappers" are a serious problem in the UK and continental Europe. Perhaps you're not familiar with who they are, or what they do. Let me tell you. The vast majority of them are the children of immigrants and refugees who moved to Europe from countres in Africa, Central Asia, India and the Middle East. Of course, there are domestic "happy slappers", but they tend to be in the minority.

      For a number of reasons (poor language skills, almost no work ethic, a lack of European cultural underst
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by bendodge (998616)
        Exactly! The USA should quit funding the UN and bulldoze their New York office, because they are the main proponents of laws and regulations that make people helpless. The UN is constantly pushing "civil-rights" laws and gun bans that render people defenseless against aggressors.

        In most of America, I can shoot anybody who threatens me or my property, and be pretty safe from lawsuits (the major exception is the Anti-Christian Lawsuit Union - er - the American Civil Liberties Union's lawsuits). It's really a
        • by QCompson (675963) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @01:05AM (#18258892)

          The UN is constantly pushing "civil-rights" laws and gun bans that render people defenseless against aggressors.
          And yet, who suffers from much more violent crime involving guns? Europe or the USA? Hmm...
      • by ggireesh (809645) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @01:54AM (#18259146)

        The vast majority of them are the children of immigrants and refugees who moved to Europe from countres in Africa, Central Asia, India and the Middle East
        Where did you get this stat from ? Majority of "happy slappers" are English youths - most of them school or college students. And many at times, the so called immigrants are the victims. The inspiration for all these ? American media - be it in the form of Jackass and Dirty Sanchez....
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by susano_otter (123650)
        Sounds pretty bizarre to me. Obviously the slapping is the crime, not the filming. I assume the French already have laws against slapping. But if the anti-slapping laws aren't effective, what makes them think the anti-filming laws will be effective?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by kevinbr (689680)
        ".....The vast majority of them are the children of immigrants and refugees who moved to Europe from countres in Africa, Central Asia, India and the Middle East. Of course, there are domestic "happy slappers", but they tend to be in the minority......"

        And you have supporting statistics for this assertion? I doubt it very much. What a statement. Please provide evidence for this or withdraw the assertion. I suspect but have no fact that it is the opposite. I suspect but cannot prove that you might have some r
  • by User 956 (568564) on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @07:00PM (#18256174) Homepage
    the French Constitutional Council has just made it illegal to film violence unless you are a professional journalist (or to distribute a video containing violence).

    so where's the line between amateur videographer, and aspiring reality-tv cameraman? Or maybe we need a venn diagram with professional journalist in there somewhere too.
    • Professionals get paid for their work. Now if YouTube sends you a check for a popular clip, maybe you would have a good argument for being a "pro". But I think that could work just as in the defense case of the hooligans they are trying to stop.
  • If you don't record violence, then it never happened.

    Right?

    Hey! NO CARRIER
  • 1: Make it so you need a journalism license 2: Dont issue licenses 3: Rule the worl...err France
  • by Phil246 (803464)
    Wonder if they considered that this means all CCTV camera operators are breaking the law should violence be picked up on them unless they become journalists...
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Noryungi (70322)
      Except CCTV operators in France are considered at best, member of the law-enforcement community, or, at worst, people who have received an authorization to operate the CCTV equipement. Just in case you don't understand what that means: they are allowed to film and act on what they could see on the CCTV monitors.

      Besides, they are not allowed to sell CCTV tapes, or broadcast them on the Internet. They'll be prosecuted if they do. France has got some pretty strong privacy laws like that. Furthermore, the fact
  • Inadmissible? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bigeeTea (1050470) on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @07:04PM (#18256232)
    I wonder if this new law makes video of crimes inadmissible in court, if it was filmed by a non-journalist.
    • Re:Inadmissible? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Noryungi (70322) on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @07:29PM (#18256564) Homepage Journal
      This is an entirely different question. A video of a violent act that is broadcast over the Internet, by someone who witnessed a crime but did not act, would be considered as a "crime" (misdemeanor?) in France.

      On the other hand, evidence from video cameras, whether operated by a professional journalist or not, are considred as admissible in a court of law. If I remember well (my Law School years are far behind me...), a video is not considered as a "full" proof, since the video could have been tampered or altered. On the other hand, a video is definitely admissible, as long as the person filming had no time to react or was not an accomplice in the violence.

      The problem is, of course, that with this new decision, the Constitutional Council opens a way to prosecute people who witnessed police violence and/or abuses and then decide to broadcast/upload the video over the Internet, without going to a court or to the police first. This is clearly designed to stifle dissent and the flow of information over the Internet.
  • liberty (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Lord Ender (156273)
    France gave us the word "liberty," yet the french do not value freedom of speech nearly as much as Americans do. In fact, most of western europe denies its citizens free speech rights (especially when discussing things the government can subjectively determine to be "hateful" concepts).

    The US government has made a lot of mistakes recently, but at least Americans can be proud that we are still protecting our most fundamental human right.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      still protecting our most fundamental human right.

      the right for large corporations to profit?

      *ducks*
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      France gave us the word "liberty," yet the french do not value freedom of speech nearly as much as Americans do.

      Wrong: they would value their freedom of speech very much if their governments hadn't taken it away long ago. If you want to see what I mean, go to France and say anything vaguely insulting about jews or arabs, and you'll quickly meet Bubba in the brig. (Note: I have nothing against jews or arabs, but I reckon it should be legal to say anything about them as long as it's not a call for racial viol
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by cdrguru (88047)
        The problem is how strongly do people feel that you should have the right to insult or denigrate Jews or Arabs? Or white folks from Tennessee? Or black folks from Alabama? Or tell Polish jokes?

        Today, in the US you will find plenty of people that will say you should not have the right to insult people based on their race, religion or ethnic background. That to do so is a "hate crime".

        Just the concept of a "hate crime" is extremely dangerous. We now have criminal prosecutions that are based on violating
    • Re:liberty (Score:4, Informative)

      by giorgiofr (887762) on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @07:19PM (#18256406)
      Actually ancient Rome "gave" us liberty, "libertas". Other than that you're right.
    • Re:liberty (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @07:26PM (#18256516)

      In fact, most of western europe denies its citizens free speech rights

      Most? There are a few big ones like Germany and France, yes, but I very much doubt most. Do you actually have anything to back this claim up?

      Americans can be proud that we are still protecting our most fundamental human right.

      Aww, come off it. You have "free speech zones", you've classified some forms of speech as "munitions" subject to export regulation, your corporations have used the law to remove results from Google, to stop hacker magazines from publishing hyperlinks, you're dropping down the press freedom index, the White House censored the New York Times even when the CIA said that there was nothing classified in it... even Slashdot has been censored.

      I really should make a list, whenever somebody like you posts a comment like that, I always miss loads out because I'm just listing things off the top of my head. There are many, many instances of freedom of speech being curtailed in the USA. If you think the USA has free speech, then you are (dare I say wilfully) wearing blinkers.

    • Re:liberty (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Rimbo (139781) <rimbosity.sbcglobal@net> on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @07:27PM (#18256536) Homepage Journal
      You know, as my Chinese S.O. never fails to point out, the Chinese have just as much freedom of speech as we do! In China, you can say anything you want to.

      It's freedom after speech that's not guaranteed...
    • Re:liberty (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @07:29PM (#18256572)
      If France doesn't value freedom of speech as much as America, then tell my why the Annual Worldwide Press Freedom Index for 2006 rated America behind France in terms of freedom of the press?

      America has fallen sharply as Bush has stayed in office, and ranks 53rd equal in the world for freedom of the press. France is currently 35th equal. There appears to be less censorship in France than in America for media reporting. Kinda the opposite of your statement, right? But don't let that get in the way of your blind jingoism.
      Source: http://www.rsf.org/rubrique.php3?id_rubrique=639 [rsf.org]

    • by dbIII (701233)

      France gave us the word "liberty," yet the french do not value freedom of speech nearly as much as Americans do

      True - the USA is in the zone as far as free speech goes.

      I'm sure there's something about free speech zones on wikipedia by now for those that miss the admittedly poor joke and nibbling social comment.

  • If they really wanted to do this, it would make more sense to simply criminalize the recording or broadcasting of real violence (as opposed to possible dramatic acting) in the context of entertainment. Things which are genuinely educational, informative, or newsworthy are not always filmed by actual journalists, but often by people who just happened to be in the right place at the right time.
    • by couchslug (175151)
      They don't need to do it at all.

      Prosecute the attackers for aggravated (the filming being specified grounds) assault.
      Prosecute those filming it as accessories to the assault.
      Posession of camera gear in that context proves conspiracy, so nail all concerned as co-conspirators.
      • by mark-t (151149)
        How does possession of camera gear prove conspiracy? As I said, a person might just happen to be in the right place at the right time and have nothing more than an interest in telling people the truth, not promoting real-world violence as a form of entertainment.
  • There goes sports. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Deathlizard (115856) on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @07:16PM (#18256388) Homepage Journal
    So under this definition, wouldn't filming the Zidane Headbutt in the World Cup be considered criminal to the cameraman that filmed it?

    I guess sports cameramen better start practicing their journalism skills.
    • by Noryungi (70322)
      Sports cameramen are considered as "journalists" in France. So they are exempt.

      Someone who filmed Zidane's headbutt from the sidelines on a cell phone could be prosecuted, though.
  • I can understand the desire to cut down on violence done for entertainment purposes, but, as suggested by the article and summary, this can have a dire negative consequence: someone who video tapes brutality, especially where police are involved, for the purpose of presenting it as evidence.

    Perhaps if this would actually decrease the violence, it might not be so bad. Instead, those who do such "happy slapping" (wtf?) will find a way around it, by distributing CDs, or planning the fights and getting an audie
    • by aslate (675607)
      "Happy Slapping" is a strange phenomenon come about in the era of the camera-phone. It involves a group of Chavs (crap) that attack an innocent bystander whilst on camera. Presumably started with a basic slap round the face (Similar to the "You've been Tango'd" adverts, but it's progressed to serious and violent crimes.

      It's a nasty social thing that's developed recently, it was in the media months back in the UK. Not that it's something to expect to happen to you, it's become reasonably prevalent.

      I can see
  • by The Living Fractal (162153) <banantarr&hotmail,com> on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @07:19PM (#18256416) Homepage
    A riot broke out around the French Academy of General Studies (acronym rarely used) as thousands tried and failed to register as licensed journalists. Amidst the fray the irony was as deep as the blood in the streets, as those who were involved were unsure whether they had yet obtained the rights to film the event. Furthermore, those who had successfully registered found it difficult to film themselves during the incident as they were overcome by the mob. Police had no idea who was legally allowed to film the event and, because they had to turn off their cameras due to not being journalists themselves, no solid proof of the perpetrators has survived.

    TLF
  • Being an American, I plead ignorance regarding the EU constitution, but, A) Did it ever get ratified, and B) can this move possibly be legal under that document? If so, I'd say it's time to give it its first amendment (irony intended).
    • by Noryungi (70322)
      I have posted this a bit earlier in the same discussion, but, yes, it would be possible to appeal this decision of the French Constitutional Council all the way to the European Court of Human Rights. This Court has the power to overturn all national decisions on matters of Human Rights, and free speech/free flow of information would definitely fall into its mandate.

      Of course, it would take years of legal fight to reach the European Court. And legal fees are not exactly cheap in France...
  • I wonder how this could be reworded to avoid including activities that would be considered unethical (bum wars, illegal street fights, etc)?

    How about: Filming violence acts for the purpose of profit or the encouragement of said violent act.

    Still doesn't deal with "tame" violence such as BSDM videos etc.

    The being said, whether you're behind the camera or not I think there are probably existing laws that deal with these situations. I know most countries have laws against aiding and abetting illegal acts
    • by Noryungi (70322)
      There is no need to use this decision of the French Constitutional Council. As I have posted elsewhere, most of the videos you mention could already be prosecuted under French Law. For instance, bum wars could be considered as inciting violence and disorder or even as being accomplice to assault and battery.

      It makes the decision in question that much more stupid.
    • The being said, whether you're behind the camera or not I think there are probably existing laws that deal with these situations. I know most countries have laws against aiding and abetting illegal acts (including illegal fights, etc)

      I, too, am pretty sure France has plenty of laws already to prosecute perpetrators of "happy slapping" (a term I'd never heard of until today). I suspect that the new law is the result of a legislative body hearing the cries of the public to "do something" about the problem

  • by DebateG (1001165) on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @07:23PM (#18256484)
    Call me a cynic, but I suspect that politicians draft overly broad laws on purpose, in an effort to criminalize as much as possible. They can create so many complicated laws that it is impossible for most citizens to even be aware of what is and what is not legal. This later allows them to selectively apply the law for political ends. As Cardinal Richelieu said, "If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them which will hang him."
  • Give me a break. In the states, it's called "filming an assault." Why attach a cutesy-poo name to an otherwise illegal activity?
    • by Chris Burke (6130) on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @08:46PM (#18257300) Homepage
      I had never heard of it before, but based on the WP entry on the subject, I'm guessing that the term "happy slapping" is similar to "pretexting": A term invented by the perpetrators of the crime to make it seem less criminal. Then the idiot media picks up and happily repeats the terms until they become common parlance.
  • by StikyPad (445176) on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @07:45PM (#18256732) Homepage
    Guess they've just outlawed any surveillance camera that films violence, including their own. Oops!
  • Somewhat off topic, but meh...

    Someone attempting this "happy slapping" here is likely to get the perpetrator shot. I wouldn't say I live in a rough neighborhood, but I'm usually only outside at night, walking my dog. Suffice to say I think it's wise to carry my pistol when I'm out walking around 10:00pm.

    Last night was the first time in the 5 months I've lived there that I've heard gunshots while out walking. Over the course of 15 minutes I heard 3 sets of *pop pop pop pop pop pop* around 10:30pm. Not that I
  • Freedom, apparently, isn't in the mix, as in free speech.

    I feel awful for them, but they probably feel awful for Americans, what with the incredible liberties that we've lost.
  • Someone noticed (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cdrguru (88047) on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @07:49PM (#18256790) Homepage
    There is a huge potential problem brewing. And almost nobody in the "online community" understands it.

    Let's say there is an altercation between a cop and a young minority person. When the dust clears, said minority person is dead. Two hours later a video shows up on YouTube showing the cop beating the person with a large club. This is picked up, played on the nightly news. Everyone in the town sees it.

    Cop is convicted because "everone knows" he did it.

    The video is later shown to be an utter fabrication by two college students looking for fame.

    Under today's law in the US, the college students can't be charged with anything. The video would never be admitted into court as evidence, but it would be fresh in the minds of all the jurors and couldn't possibly be excluded from their minds.

    We have skated pretty close to some TV stations doing this kind of thing in the past, but most know better now. They don't accept just anything. Photoshopping pictures is being done, and some people are getting caught. In the US most news organizations are aware of the problem and are somewhat sensitive about it. It probably would take a case like this to really bring it home to the "profressionals", but we are already seeing a lot of amateur content making it out that cannot be verified and is subject to all kinds of fraud.

    But "everyone" knows "seeing is believing" and so they are going to take anything that even looks real as the absolute truth.

    Perhaps France is trying to slide away from this, just a little bit? We're ripe for some real juicy stuff in the US and until it happens there isn't going to be any restriction on so-called citizen journalists putting video out that purports to show crimnal activity. And it will be impossible to keep it away from a jury, leading to instant convictions.
  • That article(s) was educational. I haven't had to look up so many terms in 30 years. Nothing like a definition that uses another word you don't know ;) Oh well, i now know: chiv, ned, yob, and more.
  • by Opportunist (166417) on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @08:59PM (#18257384)
    As usual. Instead of finding the root of the problem and eliminating that, they issue a law that not only is pointless, it actually can be helping the criminals.

    It's not like beating someone up in the first place is legal, and the punishment for doing this outweighs by magnitudes the taping. Still, people do it. Does ANYONE think outlawing taping it would change anything? Does anyone think the 'happy slappers' are gonna think now "Hey, beating up is fun but noooooo, we can't tape it anymore so it ain't fun no more"? Does anyone really think this is changing anything AT ALL?

    Instead, it's now illegal to tape someone beating up someone and thus creating evidence against the thug. Nice work, France. Protect your criminals.

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