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Tuesday, July 7, 2009

French Broadcaster Sued for Firing Employee Based on HADOPI Stance

It was the story of an e-mail heard around the world. You may remember Jérôme Bourreau-Guggenheim who expressed opposition in an e-mail to his member of parliament. That e-mail went back to his employer, TF1, who then promptly fired him because of his political views back in May. Now, Bourreau-Guggenheim is suing TF1 for discrimination.

His journey throughout all of this probably started off as a humble employee, working at Frances broadcaster, TF1. He probably had no idea that one day, he’d be the centre of a major political debate that the whole world is watching at the time.

Then, the HADOPI law debate came up. Three strikes and you’re out for copyright infringement online. At the time, the proposal would have no judicial oversight whatsoever – not to mention being forced to pay your subscription fee even though you have been, well, banned from the internet. Your name would be added to a blacklist so you can’t subscribe with another provider and the amount of time you were disconnected, at the time, was still being determined.

Not surprisingly, the law was just about as controversial then as it is now. For Jérôme Bourreau-Guggenheim at the time, he wasn’t exactly too keen on the law either. So, while at work, he sent an e-mail to his member of parliament to express his personal opposition to the “three strikes” law. His member of parliament’s office, who also happened to be part of the governing party, UMP, then forwarded the e-mail to the minister of culture who then forwarded the e-mail to his employer, TF1. Bourreau-Guggenheim boss then hauled him into his office where he was showed a copy of his e-mail before he was fired for “strategic differences”

His story hit several major French newspapers. He went from just a side-line employee to a front-line borderline celebrity who is against the French three strikes law. The story has since caused political waves.

Now, it seems, a new development has happened in this case. French newspaper, Le Monde, is reporting (Google Translation) that Bourreau-Guggenheim is suing his former employer, TF1, for discrimination. His lawsuit is based on article 225-2 of the penal code which addresses “violations of human dignity”.

The punishment for such a violation is up to three years in prison and a 45,000 euro fine. That article specifically deals with an employment dismissal based on a political viewpoint.

Le Monde makes an additional interesting point:

By revealing the affair in its issue of May 7, Libération had quoted from the letter explicitly refers to mail sent to Ms. de Panafieu. Including this clarification: “This correspondence was received through the office of the Minister of Culture, which has posed address the same day the company TF1. A path to strong symbolic resonance, given the suspicions about the relationship between power and sarkozyste audiovisual group, whose main shareholder, Martin Bouygues, is the near the head of state.

Another part of the article says:

It is true that the case has already made much noise but it has needed to add: wrangling in the Assembly, where the former Minister of Culture, Christine Albanel, has been strongly implicated by the opposition; sanction against the member of his Cabinet who had transferred to the TF1 mail received from Ms. de Panafieu (Le Monde, 12 May).

Now committed criminal in a long process, Mr. Bourreau Guggenheim-must adapt to circumstances. To live this matter without further destroying his career. Say they have had “some contact with elected representatives of the opposition, which (l ‘) were invited to participate in debates on Hadopi”, the former part of TF1 should also “reassure (the) future employers” when is invited to an interview. TF1 who denounced “positions (…) radical expressed publicly,” he defends himself on these two points: “I am loyal, I have nothing being published at TF1. And I am not an extremist free download.”

At this point in time, it’s not hard to see this as a no win situation for the UMP of France, not to mention TF1 who is neck deep in this political fiasco as well. It would appear that Bourreau-Guggenheim has a number of additional options should things go sour for him including referring to the European Court of Human Rights. Though one can only imagine how much additional political damage that would cause for the government who is not only intending on pushing through the three strikes law at all cost, but also changing around the French court system and giving judges only approximately 5 minutes to rule on each disconnection.

This case about a French employee fired for opposing the three strikes law, unfortunately for TF1 and the UMP, isn’t going to go away any time soon.

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