France to adopt “three strikes” law for illegal downloaders

By Mark O’Neill
Contributing Writer, [GAS]

You only have to look at the issue of online file sharing to see how different the European Union is.   Some political parties in Scandinavia want to legalise it while German prosecutors think it’s a waste of their time and taxpayers money even prosecuting such “petty offenses”.   But France is taking the extreme opposite approach – President Sarkozy is forcefully pushing through a new law that would ban internet access for up to one year to anyone caught illegally sharing files online.

The “three strikes” law is, as you can imagine, hugely controversial, judging from media reports.   Some newspapers have accused Sarkozy of only supporting this law because his new wife is a singer, therefore he must have a personal financial interest in protecting musical profits.    Needless to say, the music and movie industry are jubilant.   Other companies, such as Google, are most definitely not.

Basically the scheme will work like this.  A state agency will be set up called HADOPI (High Authority for copyright protection and Dissemination Of works on the Internet – don’t ask me what the ‘p’ stands for).   This agency will enforce the new law.

Now how they will actually detect the file sharers is unclear (obviously they are not revealing their methods), but when they have a victim in their grasp, the victim gets two warnings.   The first one is by email (let’s hope it doesn’t go into the spam folder).    If the person doesn’t heed the warning then warning number two is a registered letter to the person’s home repeating the warning again and stressing that this is their last chance to stop (let’s hope they have a mailbox and if they do, let’s hope they don’t have a dog that likes to eat mail).

If they keep on going with downloading season 3 of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, then HADOPI contacts the person’s ISP and tells them to pull the plug for a period of one year.

Now apparently, if the person then suddenly becomes repentant (which CAN happen if you suddenly lose your internet and you get withdrawal symptoms!) then that ban can be knocked down to a few months if they agree to sign a written promise never to illegally download ever again.    But if they don’t repent, then their details will be passed around other ISP firms to stop them signing up with another ISP (assuming they all co-operate with one another).

Violation of copyright laws through illegal downloading is also punishable by a fine of up to 300,000 euros and three years in jail in certain cases.

Now obviously there are a lot of people criticizing this plan and pointing out lots of flaws.   For example, what if someone is illegally downloading at work?   Is HADOPI going to take out the internet connection of an entire company for a whole year?    What if a child is doing it and the parents plead ignorance?   What then?   Plus what’s to stop the person going to a friend’s house and using their computer?   Or taking a laptop and using wi-fi in Starbucks?

Plus as many people point out, these days, EVERYTHING is connected to the internet – things like your telephone.   Many people use Skype as their phone for example.   So if you take out the internet, you’re also taking out their phone.   You’re also depriving them of online banking and other day to day necessities.

But despite the numerous complaints, Sarkozy is standing firm and the law is likely to come into force in January 2009.   So if you’re an illegal downloader in France, you’d best either stop – or find a Plan B.

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6 Responses to France to adopt “three strikes” law for illegal downloaders

  1. I find it interesting that this has come out pretty much exactly the same time Kid Rock has said people should just take whatever they want, basically to 'punish' the greedy music industry.

    Either way, it's yet another example of idle threats made by largely powerless corporations (and in this case, a government). The logistics of going after the end users have never made sense – see the war on drugs for more clues on this – and all that happens is you increasingly alienate people to the point where it becomes a huge game that both sides are trying to win. Assuming that there's any facts at all in this story and it's not just hot air, then if you get a few prosecutions all that will happen is some bright spark will figure out a very convenient and easy way for people to mask their torrent/P2P downloads so that they cannot be traced. That's coming, anyway, you can guarantee it. And then what?

    All logic points to targeting the massive uploaders. Even though he does great things, bringing down somebody like aXXo, and anyone else who steps up after him (which again would be an inevitability), would send out for more of a message than prosecuting some poor sap who got caught downloading an episode of Scrubs, the first and only time he ever went to a torrent site.

    My personal opinion is, as usual, all this stuff has absolutely zero substance to it. I think the industry is powerless to stop this but they'll continue to say they're not to scare off those few people who buy into it.

  2. I find it interesting that this has come out pretty much exactly the same time Kid Rock has said people should just take whatever they want, basically to 'punish' the greedy music industry.

    Either way, it's yet another example of idle threats made by largely powerless corporations (and in this case, a government). The logistics of going after the end users have never made sense – see the war on drugs for more clues on this – and all that happens is you increasingly alienate people to the point where it becomes a huge game that both sides are trying to win. Assuming that there's any facts at all in this story and it's not just hot air, then if you get a few prosecutions all that will happen is some bright spark will figure out a very convenient and easy way for people to mask their torrent/P2P downloads so that they cannot be traced. That's coming, anyway, you can guarantee it. And then what?

    All logic points to targeting the massive uploaders. Even though he does great things, bringing down somebody like aXXo, and anyone else who steps up after him (which again would be an inevitability), would send out for more of a message than prosecuting some poor sap who got caught downloading an episode of Scrubs, the first and only time he ever went to a torrent site.

    My personal opinion is, as usual, all this stuff has absolutely zero substance to it. I think the industry is powerless to stop this but they'll continue to say they're not to scare off those few people who buy into it.

  3. Clearly, the Frogs have once again shown that they are intellectual imbeciles. But we really shouldn't be surprised at their strong arm tactics. This is a country that regulates whether a food item, e.g, wine and cheese, can be called what it is depending on *where* it is made. This is a country that trademarks clothing designs to prevent less expensive variations being made available to the people. This is a country that makes pretentious art films yet considers Jerry Lewis a genius and a demi-deity.

  4. Clearly, the Frogs have once again shown that they are intellectual imbeciles. But we really shouldn’t be surprised at their strong arm tactics. This is a country that regulates whether a food item, e.g, wine and cheese, can be called what it is depending on *where* it is made. This is a country that trademarks clothing designs to prevent less expensive variations being made available to the people. This is a country that makes pretentious art films yet considers Jerry Lewis a genius and a demi-deity.

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