Tuesday, May 12, 2009

France Defies European Union and Passes Controversial Anti-Piracy Three Strikes and You're Out Creation and Internet Law Against Illegal File-Sharing

The French National Assembly of the Fifth French Republic, the lower legislative chamber in the bicameral Parliament of France, has passed the "three strikes and you're out" anti-piracy "Creation and Internet Law", also called the "Three-Strikes Law" against illegal file-sharing and it is expected that the upper house, the French Senate, will also pass the law tomorrow.

As written at ZeroPaid.com:

"Today the French National Assembly formally passed the controversial “Creation and Internet” law by a narrow 296 to 233 margin.

The legislation, backed by President Nicolas Sarkozy, and surprisingly defeated in the same body last month, calls for the creation of the Haute Autorité pour la Diffusion des Oeuvres et la Protection des droits sur Internet (HADOPI), a new govt agency whose task it would be to sanction those accused of illegal file-sharing."

The law is controversial in the European Union because it directly defies efforts of the EU Parliament in recent weeks to make the Three Strikes Law illegal through telecom law amendments which make internet access a fundamental right of EU citizens. As reported by La Quadrature du Net:

" "A formidable campaign from the citizens put the issues of freedoms on the Internet at the center of the debates of the Telecoms Package. This is a victory by itself. It started with the declaration of commissioner Viviane Reding considering access to Internet as a fundamental right. The massive re-adoption of amendment 138/462 rather than the softer compromise negotiated by rapporteur Trautmann with the Council is an even stronger statement. These two elements alone confirm that the French ‘three strikes’ scheme, HADOPI, is dead already." explains Jérémie Zimmermann, co-founder of La Quadrature du Net."

It thus has all the makings of an upcoming confrontation between the French Parliament and the Parliament of the European Union.

The passage by the French Assembly had an immediate reaction in the United Kingdom, as reported by Nigel Kendall, Technology Editor at the Times Online, who writes that the UK is the latest country in Europe to formulate a strategy to combat illegal online file-sharing:

"A group representing the UK's creative industries today called for the UK government to intervene to prevent the spread of illegal file-sharing of copyrighted content such as music and film.

The group, a loose coalition that includes The British Phonographic Industry and the Film Distributors' Association, as well as trades unions such as the National Union of Journalists and the Musicians' Union, issued a joint statement following a meeting in London on May 12."

There is in the long term of course no question that the days of illegal fire-sharing are numbered, since large parts of the world economy are built on intellectual property rights which have to be defended. The French law is taking the logical approach by providing for the tracing of illegal file-sharers and a three-strikes and you are out policy toward them, leading to the cutting of their Internet connections. As written at the Hollywood Reporter:

"The "Creation and Internet" law, nicknamed the "Hadopi" because it involves the the creation of a Hadopi (High Authority for the Broadcast of Content and the Protection of Rights on the Internet) committee, authorizes the tracing of illegal downloaders through their IP addresses."

Once illegal downloaders are faced with the consequence that their Internet connections will be cut off, illegal file-sharing will drop quickly since the average citizen will not want to take that risk and will thus no longer engage in what he or she knows to be illegal file-sharing, but which currently has little risk of detection or penalties.

We presume that a compromise political and legal solution will be the recognition of Internet access as a fundamental right of EU citizens, provided that they do not engage in illegal activities via that very same Internet. We see no direct confrontation to be necessary here.

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