In a move that is sure to make legislators around the world stand up and take notice, the French Senate recently sent a clear message to those engaged in illegal downloading that their behaviour will not be tolerated.
In a landslide vote of approval which crossed party lines, the French Senate voted 297 to 15 in support of a law which would see internet access cut off for those users repeatedly caught infringing copyright law, by downloading without authorization music, movies or games.
Under the proposed legislation, France’s internet service providers (ISPs) will be required to monitor those users engaged in copyright infringement. The proposed “three strikes” or “graduated response” legislation, would provide illegal downloaders with two warnings; the first via email and the second via written letter. If the second warning does not deter the user’s illegal behaviour, the user’s internet connection could be revoked for one year by their ISP.
Companies who allow multiple access to one network will also be asked to install firewalls to block illegal file sharing in the workplace.
The Senate resoundingly rejected an amendment proposed by the Mouvement pour la France (MPF) senator, Bruno Retailleau, who had suggested enacting a fine rather than the proposed one year internet revocation. Mr. Retailleau had argued that cutting users off of the internet was excessive as internet had become an “essential commodity”, and that to lose it would be “traumatic for a family”.
The proposed legislation was originally introduced in November 2007 by French President Nicholas Sarkozy, as part of an overall anti-piracy strategy which had arisen out of a landmark agreement between the French government, ISPs, music, and movie makers in France. President Sarkozy called the agreement, “a decisive movement for the future of a civilized internet”.
Enforcement of the law will be overseen by a new governmental agency called the High Authority for Copyright Protection and Dissemination of Works on the Internet (“HADOPI”).
The legislation has been widely lauded by the entertainment industry as a vital step in addressing the harms of online piracy as it is aimed at encouraging internet users currently engaged in copyright infringement to use the increasing number of legal download services.
Critics note that the proposed law is at odds with a previous decision of the European Parliament, which had rejected a call to impose similar internet cut-off legislation across Europe. The proposed legislation, however, accords with proposals made by countries such as the United Kingdom and Australia, which are also considering implementing similar “three strike” legislation to address illegal downloading of copyrighted works. In addition, other countries such as Sweden are reportedly drafting legislation that will ease the tracking and prosecution of persistent pirates. France’s proposed legislation is slated to go to the French National Assembly for final approval.