Connected Research

Union policy research in the 21st century

France approves HADOPI 2 law on illegal downloading

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One month after its parliament passed the new law, the controversial French legislation cutting the connections of illegal downloaders was approved last Thursday [registration required; limited viewing time] by the French Constitutional Court.

The new law sets up an agency – HADOPI – that will send out an e-mail warning to people found to be illegally downloading copyright content. Registration of a second offence within six months will be followed by a written report and a third could see a judge order a one-year access suspension or a fine. The members of the agency are expected to be appointed next month and the first warnings could be issued from the start of 2010.

The law’s proponents, including French President Nicholas Sarkozy, have supported the law based on the need to provide an environment in which content owners can flourish in spite of the ease with which content can be stored, reproduced and traded online. Doubtlessly there has been some form of international competition here too as countries have been to some extent racing each other to produce the first laws and thus to define themselves as the country with the ‘best’ protections for content owners. The UK, for instance, is also consulting on how instances of illegal downloading should be dealt with, while the European Commission also launched last week a consultation on the digital single market and protecting creative content online.

Furthermore, the European Parliament has dropped its amendment to the EU telecoms package which would have protected the rights of internet users to a court hearing before being cut off: an interesting development given that Parliament’s insistence on the law earlier this year stopped the package being passed prior to the summer’s EU elections, and then on the specific grounds of the first draft of the French HADOPI.

The French law has been controversial for the measures it takes in response: cutting internet access for up to one year – where this is the conclusion of a judge after due legal process – is a harsh punishment given the pervasiveness of the net and its political and social importance, and some organisations, e.g. Reporters sans Frontières, have as a result criticised the law as constituting a ‘major threat to free expression‘. Reaction has also been produced on the extent to which internet service providers themselves might contribute to the costs of policing illegal downloading, with associations of content owners, both in the UK and in France, arguing that they should while ISPs themselves have fought against such an idea, again on both sides of the Channel – and with some justification: policing copyright infringements should be the activity of copyright holders.

Reporters sans Frontières are right to be concerned about the methods of identifying persistent downloaders but freedom of expression concerns are rather harder to sustain in this context. That controlling persistent downloading is rapidly taking on the characteristics of whac a mole doesn’t preclude the need to do something about it – or that we should simply accept copyright theft as an inevitable part of internet life.


Written by Calvin

26/10/2009 at 6:16 pm

One Response

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  1. […] by the Political and Economic Risk Consultancy (PERC). France, meanwhile, enacted in 2009 the Creation and Internet Law to curb illegal downloads. The Higher Authority for Distribution of Works and the Protection of […]

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