Jean-Luc Godard donates €1K for accused MP3 downloader's defense: "There is no such thing as intellectual property"

My French is very rusty, and there doesn't seem to be any coverage of this story yet in English-language news... but apparently, the great French-Swiss film director Jean-Luc Godard (above) donated a thousand euros toward the legal defense costs of James Climent (inset), a 37-year-old French citizen accused of downloading 13,788 MP3s.

From what I can make out, Climent was fined 20,000 euros by SACEM and SDRM following lengthy court proceedings.

Mr. Godard read a profile of Climent's BitTorrent troubles in Liberation, and decided to help him out. When first contacted by the nouvelle vague godfather, Climent thought he was being hoaxed. Suspicion turned to elation when he realized one of his heroes was reaching out to assist. Climent has since published an account on his blog: "God(ard) bless us." (English, sort of / French).

This cartoon about the whole affair is awfully funny if you are familiar with French cinema, and understand the language.

Godard is often credited with having once said, "It's not where you take things from—it's where you take them to."

Here's a Google robotranslation of the Godard/Climent story.

Update: Boing Boing reader Paul R. offers this translation of an important Godard quote in the linked news story (emphasis mine):

I am against Hadopi [the French internet-copyright law, or its attendant agency], of course. There is no such thing as intellectual property. I'm against the inheritance [of works], for example. An artist's children could benefit from the copyright of their parents' works, say, until they reach the age of majority... But afterward, it's not clear to me why Ravel's children should get any income from Bolero...

(thanks, Guillaume Remy, via BB Submitterator)


  1. The quote from Godard in the robo-translated version might not make it clear enough what Godard said.

    « Je suis contre Hadopi, bien sûr. Il n’y a pas de propriété intellectuelle. Je suis contre l’héritage, par exemple. Que les enfants d’un artiste puissent bénéficier des droits de l’œuvre de leurs parents, pourquoi pas jusqu’à leur majorité… Mais après, je ne trouve pas ça évident que les enfants de Ravel touchent des droits sur le Boléro… »

    My translation:
    I am against Hadopi [the French internet-copyright law, or its attendant agency], of course. There is no such thing as intellectual property. I’m against the inheritance [of works], for example. An artist’s children could benefit from the copyright of their parents’ works, say, until they reach the age of majority… But afterward, it’s not clear to me why Ravel’s children should get any income from Bolero…

  2. I feel that there shouldn’t be such a thing as intellectual property rights. It is an issuance of monopoly privilege whose effects (I believe) actually discourage innovation, stifle competition, and stymies economic development despite the usual defenses given by its supporters.

    For more on this view, I suggest reading the book “Against Intellectual Monopoly” which is available in a free PDF version as well as print.

  3. From the link to Climent’s blog post, another of gem from Godard:

    « Le droit d’auteur, vraiment c’est pas possible. Un auteur n’a aucun droit. Je n’ai aucun droit. Je n’ai que des devoirs »

    It’s a bit of a play on words, as copyright in French is “droit d’auteur” [creator’s right], but here goes:
    Copyright, there’s really no such thing. A creator has no [copy]rights. I have no [copy]rights. I only have duties.

  4. From the copyright-as-incentive standpoint, inheritance makes perfect sense to me as long as it’s combined with sane term limits. In exchange for creating the work, you get X years’ worth of royalties; the only difference is that the kids are inheriting money yet to be actually gained. Like inheriting an investment.

  5. It’s not a right, it’s a privilege to silence others. Copying would seem to be covered as freedom of speech/press(mechanical speech). What we call copyright is actually a copy right abrogation privilege.

  6. Copyright, or as Super Nate observes, the annulling of the right to copy in the majority, to leave the right by exclusion in the hands of a few, is an instrument of injustice.

    Like pregnancy you should either have the privilege or you shouldn’t. It’s no good saying it should only last a few decades rather than a few centuries, or that it should only last until all of one’s direct descendants reach the age of 18 (presumably including future sperm bank progeny).

    Either all individuals should have their cultural liberty restored, or it should continue to be suspended for the commercial exploitation and enrichment of immortal publishing corporations (the successor’s to Queen Anne’s beloved Stationers’ Company of 1709).

  7. What’s all this about authors & creators??? can’t anyone see that its the record Co.s and book publishers, etc. who want to protect their own interests and are using influence lobbies to push thru protecive laws.

    1. Indeed, the English concept of copyright came about after the crown first gave a select few the right to print box as an effort to control the flow of information (specifically translated bibles as the person in change at the time was a catholic in a protestant nation).

      Then, after a civil war and change or leadership, the people previously holding said exclusive rights found that it was a nice income source. End result, they petitioned the new crown to reinstate the system. End result was the copyright that was the basis for the first US copyright.

      At the same time the french are defining their “rights of the author”, something that was less about money and more about the authors control over how his creation got used. This line of thinking then gets picked up by the other European nations in one form or other.

      Later on we get the Berne convention that sync most of these, tho USA is a late signer (the reason why Tolkien got so well known in USA as a publisher there did not have to respect british copyright).

      So basically, the Life+50 concept comes from the french “rights of the author” while issues of copying comes from English copyright, and they all become a hot topic globally thanks to USA being the biggest exporter of “intellectual property” (India may be the biggest producer, but it’s not exported as much).

  8. Copyrights and intellectual property concepts should stop existing only after people stop stealing and making profit over someone else’s creativity. I’m not saying that copyright laws are right, but the authors, creators, programmers, artists should have at least some measure of protection against corruption and crime. Until that happens, I want my work to remain my work. Anyone who has created something and has seen it stolen will know the feeling, the rest should at least put themselves in our shoes before they go on and on and on about intellectual property being “wrong”.

  9. Ravel didn’t have any children. Wikipedia:

    “Ravel is not known to have had any intimate relationships, and his personal life, and especially his sexuality, remains a mystery.”

    I completely agree with the point Godard was trying to make. He just needs a better example.

  10. I’m confused…

    If I’m to take the first part of his statement literally, then I’m to also assume he’s never profited from his own films or books via copyright? Does his income only come from teaching or public speaking engagements?
    Sure, I understand the part about future generations not profiting from the artists works, but what about the artists themselves?

    Can anyone clarify/verify this?

    1. “Il n’y a pas de propriété intellectuelle. Je suis contre l’héritage, par exemple.”

      In the first sentence, Godard says that intellectual creations aren’t property in the usual sense of the word: houses, pocketknives, bags of carrots. Thus, in the second sentence, to illustrate [and clarify] the point, he says he’s against the inheritance of copyrights.

      He does add” “Que les enfants d’un artiste puissent bénéficier des droits de l’oeuvre de leurs parents, pourquoi pas jusqu’â leur majorité…)

      He is willing to concede that the creators’ children could/should [I don’t have the text that the ellipsis replaces] continue to receive copyright payments until they reach the age of majority. But afterwards? No.

      He does NOT say that the creator should not benefit for his/her works – those of y’all who insist on repeating this straw man, the original text is quite clear.

      But he doesn’t believe that copyright should be treated as property.

      1. Ah, I see. I think saying something like “copyright isn’t a tangible thing, and should not be transferable like property” would be easier to understand.

  11. Perhaps he used that guy as an example on purpose because he wanted to talk about theoretical children and not offend any literal person.

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