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Mitterrand Book Banned in Bookstores, But Not in Cyberspace

January 24, 1996

PARIS (AP) _ A banned book that reveals Francois Mitterrand lied about his health during his entire presidency can’t be found in any French bookstore. But you can read all about it on the Internet.

Pascal Barbraud, manager of Le Web, a cafe for computer enthusiasts in the eastern town of Besancon, transcribed all 190 pages of ``Le Grand Secret″ into his Internet site late Tuesday.

``We are thumbing our nose at the censors and other sorcerers,″ he said. ``Between banning a book and burning it, there’s only one step.″

``Le Grand Secret″ was written by Dr. Claude Gubler, Mitterrand’s physician during most of his 14 years as president.

Gubler says Mitterrand had prostate cancer since 1981, the year he took office. But despite promises to keep the French public informed about his health, Mitterrand did not disclose he had cancer until 1992. He left office in May at the end of his second term and died Jan. 8 at 79.

Gubler’s book came out last Wednesday and sold all 40,000 copies the same day. On Thursday, a Paris court put a stop to further sales, agreeing with Mitterrand’s family that his right to medical privacy had been breached.

The case raises the question of whether a nation’s legal decisions apply to Internet, the worldwide network of interconnecting computers used by millions of people. Though Internet is still in its infant stage in France, it already has about 200,000 users.

Plon, the publisher of the book, was considering what action to take against Barbraud for reproducing the text without permission.

``You don’t play around with a court decision,″ said Plon publishing director Olivier Orban.

Barbraud was unfazed. He said he hoped the case would create a judicial precedent in favor of unrestricted use of the Internet.

``We are on a network that doesn’t concern national legislation,″ he said.

And he says he has been flooded by electronic messages of support from Europe, Canada and French overseas islands.

Christian Hassenfrantz, state prosecutor in Besancon, said he received no complaint against Barbraud as of today.

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