Dvorak: The French Are Right About iTunes

While the world moans and groans about the French and their attitude of cultural superiority, you sometimes have to give them credit, often in hindsight, for their ability to see through all the BS out there.

So France doesn't like the idea that Apple and the iPod and iTunes are intertwined with a proprietary structure that has no way for any other player/music download service to compete.

The French say that Apple must either open the kimono, as it were, or be banned.

Apple thinks it may as well walk away from France. Screw those French!

The French are also skeptical about the whole movie-piracy phenomenon. Why should illegally downloading the equivalent of a $19 disc result in a $250,000 fine and 5 years in prison?

Shoplifting a $100 item from a store — which is tangible and real — has fewer consequences. Does this make any sense to anyone? The French don't think so.

Illegally copying movies or downloading should be like a traffic ticket — perhaps a $100 fine. Now they are being accused of "encouraging" piracy.

How's that? $100 is a lot of money.

This is the problem, and I finally realized it: To Hollywood, $100 is not a lot of money. In fact, $250,000 may not be a lot of money to many of these folks.

I just died when I was looking through the latest Forbes list of Hollywood's top incomes. Comic actor Will Ferrell makes $40 million a year? For what? I mean seriously, I don't want to exhibit income envy, but what great skills does Ferrell employ to deserve $40 million?

Well, he obviously must attract more money in box-office receipts than he's paid, but if that's the case, things are quite skewed, and some college kid downloading a movie can't be a threat that deserves jail time. I mean, really.

The French have got it right. Especially when you consider that you can record the movie off a cable channel without penalty.

So while drug-dealing, cocaine use, murder, mayhem, armed robbery, rape and illegal corporate shenanigans run rampant in the U.S.A., law enforcement has to be on the lookout for movie downloading, to protect Hollywood billionaires.

Curiously, the police are often mocked and ridiculed in these movies. Ah, irony.

The American tendency to prioritize poorly seems to be thematic. It took yet another new twist when a get-tough stance against Wi-Fi poaching cropped up in Illinois.

Yes, forget burglary, where someone steals something tangible. Instead, we need to bust Wi-Fi poachers. This is get-tough police work, eh? How proud they must be of themselves.

In this case, there was a guy parked in his car outside someone's house, apparently downloading his e-mail or who knows what. The network had no security, so he partook.

I personally think that an open network is just that — open. And if it abuts your person or property, you can connect to it. (I'm not going to keep arguing about it.)

This much I can say: Law enforcement should not be wasting the taxpayers' money looking inside every car where they see some guy sitting reading a newspaper, in hopes of finding a Wi-Fi poacher.

Knock, knock.

"Sir, is that a laptop? Out of the car! Hands on the hood. I said hands on the hood! Spread 'em. Jenkins, grab the laptop. Click on View Wireless connections. What's it say?"

"Says 'default,' sir."

"Okay, go door to door, find default!"

Bang, bang. "POLICE, OPEN UP!"

Soon there's a 10-year-old peering out of a partially opened door. "My mommy is in the bathroom."

"Ask her if you have a wireless router in the house called 'default.'"

"You're scaring me!"

I mean, come on! The Wi-Fi poaching police are on the job. How humiliating is it to be assigned that job?

"So what do you do for the police? Vice? Narcotics? Gang infiltration? Homicide?"

"No, Wi-Fi poach protection and enforcement!"

I'm moving to France.

Discuss this article in the forums.

See John get cranky about technology in his new Cranky Geeks IPTV Show.

Go off-topic with John C. Dvorak here.

Copyright © 2006 Ziff Davis Media Inc. All Rights Reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Ziff Davis Media Inc. is prohibited.