Learning patterns/Lead a lobbying operation
What problem does this solve?
For the first time in France, a draft bill, the draft bill for a digital Republic, has been submitted for public consultation online. Every Internet user has had an opportunity to propose changes to the government text and vote for or against the proposals. As the text does not provide for the adoption of any kind of freedom of panorama in French law, Wikimedia France has taken the opportunity to lodge an amendment, online.
This defence of the freedom of panorama is to continue in parliament. But we soon realized that we were up against an enormous lobby: the French cultural industry. The lobby is highly organized, with a large number of stakeholders and teams of employees dedicated to legal and lobbying issues.
What is the solution?
Communicate by educating
Faced with such a lobby, if the general public knows little about the idea you are defending, the main challenge is to raise the subject’s profile within public opinion and create a debate. As the draft bill consultation was based on votes, we needed to encourage the community (via the Bistro, lists – including international lists) and the public (blog, twitter, Facebook) to vote for our amendment. We needed to show Internet users in general that a lack of freedom of panorama would lead to problems that concerned them all. This view had been played down by the cultural industry lobby in order to limit the debate to Wikimedia. To counter a very powerful lobby, it is therefore important to “re-establish the truth”; this may involve disseminating clear, educational documents about the issue.
Work with other stakeholders concerned by the issue
Also, when faced with a powerful lobby, it is essential to work with other stakeholders concerned by the issue. There is a lot to be gained: greater influence, support and, above all, the sharing of experiences, expertise and strengths. Concerning the draft digital technology bill, we have approached various free culture associations, our common denominator being “commons”, of which freedom of panorama is part. We have written a joint manifest, which everyone can sign, concerning the need to protect “commons”, followed by everyone’s amendments, including freedom of panorama for Wikimedia France. With such a coalition working on a shared interest, it is perfectly possible to avoid getting mixed up in defending each association’s issues, create a relationship based on mutual assistance and support each other’s ideas. As far as voting was concerned, each community in each association was able to take an interest in the other association’s amendments and possible vote for them. Talking to the stakeholders concerned by the issue may also involve meeting the other lobby, if this is possible. It is possible to try and demand a real discussion and try to reach a compromise. But it is also an opportunity to try and understand their genuine and “false” concerns in order to adjust the arguments that we put before the public authorities. If you do not properly target the people concerned by an issue and certain realities escape you when it comes to forming a coalition, or you are unable to approach the other lobby, you can draw up a stakeholder map using the power mapping method, which you can re-use when other laws are drafted on the same subject. At Wikimedia France, we began one for freedom of panorama and one for commons. This showed us that we were up against a highly-organized lobby and this strengthened our desire and need to work in a working party with the free culture associations.
Although our contribution rallied the community and Internet users to vote for freedom of panorama, making our amendment one of the proposals most voted for, faced with the French cultural industry lobby, it was not part of the text that was sent to parliament. We have therefore embarked on a series of meetings with MPs to inform them of the issues linked to freedom of panorama and to enrol supporters for our amendment so that it can be introduced into the parliamentary debate. Strategically and politically, we have sought to offer a “lightweight” wording for our freedom of panorama amendment to try and open the debate calmly and show the other lobby that we are capable of compromise. The wording has been limited to architecture and sculptures in outdoor public spaces, a version that we can fill out to fit in with parliamentary timelines. When we meet MPs, we try to be clear and provide educational documents on the subject, always with a view to “re-establishing the truth” about freedom of panorama, which has been truncated by the other lobby.
Things to consider
The political agenda is sometimes difficult to anticipate and deadlines can be very tight; it is important to take a step back at certain moments to think about the goal and the strategy to follow.
It is also essential to focus on only one lobbying issue at a time, so as not to exhaust yourself, but also to have more force and coherence. Remind yourself that you must not seek an immediate result in the law at all cost; making MPs and the public more aware of an idea is already a victory. It prepares the ground for other laws, and also prepares the way for understandings on which to base your strategy, particularly through the use of mapping.
If time allows, try to set up longer-term projects based on the weaknesses that emerged during the lobbying. For example, the need to talk more with the artists concerned by the issue. Produce brochures for meetings with art and architecture students to make them aware of the freedom of panorama issue, and talk to them about what solutions might be put in place.
When to use
To tackle issues in competition with powerful lobbies, calmly and without feeling discouraged!