Connected Research

Union policy research in the 21st century

France reaches agreement on ‘three strikes’ law

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The French parliament has given its final approval [registration required; limited viewing time] to the so-called ‘HADOPI’ bill which will cut the connections of consumers who are illegally downloading content from the internet. The bill is a revised attempt to tackle the issue following its role in the derailing of the EU’s recent telecoms regulatory package and also the decision by the French constitutional court that the ‘three strikes’ approach was illegal under French law as it did not entail a legal procedure.

The bill has the backing of the French music and film industry, but has been opposed by some groups pointing out that it did not give alleged pirates enough recourse to challenge accusations and arguing that continued innovations would make it possible for illegal downloaders to avoid detection anyway. The revised version of the law is tough, with some commentators suggesting that the legal procedure involved at the third stage is very ‘light touch’, requiring little more magistrate approval of an order drafted by HADOPI. An internet ban of up to one year may be the result or, as was possible under existing legislation, a fine of up to €300,000 or a two-year jail sentence while account holders guilty of allowing a third party to use their connection to download illegally could face a €1,500 fine and a month-long suspension.

In the UK, the music industry is itself somewhat disunited as regards the issue of illegal downloading, but BIS has launched a consultation on the issue following the references to the need to tackle the problem of illegal downloading in Digital Britain and recently – in an undated statement – has revising its thinking mid-consultation to include a power for Ofcom to oblige internet service providers to suspend the accounts of persistent infringers (the main consultation can be found here).

BIS is careful to state that the uptake and use of internet services remains essential to a digital Britain but that it is necessary to consider adding suspension to the list of measures that could [BIS’s own emphasis] be levied on persistent infringers, with at least an eye on technical innovations that might assist people avoid detection.

What content generators (artists, songwriters, film makers) choose to allow to release on a free download basis to promote themselves and their work is fine – but they do need to be protected against the consequences of the illegal downloading of copyrighted material on a commercial or pseudo-commercial basis. Inclusion of the power to suspend the internet access of persistent illegal downloaders is a proportionate step, provided of course that the power is properly exercised and that such exercise is regularly monitored.


Written by Calvin

23/09/2009 at 1:52 pm

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