The problem is a specific symptom of a serious issue: traditionally, there has not existed absolute freedom of expression in democracies; some expressions are illegal, like the distribution of copyrighted material. It is impossible to keep it from being passed on by word of mouth, and the slow data rate makes it such an inefficient mode of transmission that it may be ignored anyway. Similarly, it is very difficult to enforce content restrictions on data flowing through the Internet. It would be possible only with extremely heavy handed action; that is, installing hardware at every PoP to let packets through only if they were known to be acceptable. In other words, it would necessarily destroy the Internet.
The traditional alternative is to punish the sources and distributors of illegal material. By this amendment, analogous Internet distributors (in practice, mostly ISPs and Web site owners) have been exempted. On the other hand, French citizens passing content to Internet distributors are obligated to identify themselves correctly, on pain of imprisonment, and the distributors are required to keep this information.
What is so inherently wrong with this arrangement? It is ineffective and disproportionately harms citizens who have no desire to spread calumny, official secrets, or news prejudicial to financial holdings. Any that do are not significantly impeded; they can still post their content to a server outside the French government's jurisdiction. The modification to the law does not explicitly mention the Internet or the fact that the French government only regulates a part of it, an arbitrary section, which doesn't change the fact that French citizens can access information with near indifference to geographical location.
This legislation will only make it more difficult for French citizens to set up servers sharing information between users. For example, it would mean that people posting to a French Slashdot clone would have to provide their true names and addresses, and each post to a mailing list archived on a French website would have to contain the name and address of the poster. The text of the amendment seems to imply that anyone making source code available in France would have to determine and detail the names and physical addresses of all contributors. Mirrors of most current Open Source projects would be illegal in France.
The legal status of Linux distribution CDs seems safer, as it could be argued that the distributor played a significant role in their production, though it would also imply that they could be sued if a coder (not affiliated in any way with the distributor) libeled someone in a comment.
In conclusion, the deputies of the French National Assembly are, probably unwittingly, intending to vote into law next Wednesday a bill that would prohibit making source software available in their country. Here is a list of their email addresses; tell them. If you take one with a surname starting with the same initial letter as your own, we should get a nice spread. ;-)
John Fremlin <firstname.lastname@example.org> is at school in England. He's written a couple of kernel patches, one of which (the USB Microtek scanner driver with Oliver Neukum) is in the later 2.4.0test1-ac*, and some other software that appears on freshmeat.net. If altern.org is still up, you can find his homepage at http://altern.org/vii/. Otherwise, there are partially broken mirrors: http://www3.cybercities.com/v/vii/ (old) and http://john.batcave.net/.