France’s three strikes download policy under threat

France is reportedly considering defunding the agency that enforced its controversial “three strikes” policy on illegal downloaders. But it appears the country’s new administration will not overturn the law itself.

The country passed the law in May 2009. It created a new government agency, Hadopi, which would keep track of alleged copyright infringements. Those accused of a breach would get two warnings; on a third breach Hadopi could order the person’s ISP to bar them from using the Internet for up to a year and to pass on their details to other ISPs, who would also be expected to enforce the ban.

The measures didn’t replace the existing possibility of prosecutions leading to a fine or jail time for copyright offenses, but Hadopi was intended to be the main enforcement method. The law faced several court challenges and was later amended such that the Internet ban had to be confirmed by a court hearing.

To date the agency has sent one million “first warning” e-mails, contacted 99,000 people with a final warning, and deemed 314 people to have committed a third offense. However, it has not chosen to go to court in any of these cases to seek a ban. Whether the law has had any effect on illegal downloading is questionable, though it is reported that iTunes sales are up 25 percent since the law took effect.

France has recently voted to change both its President and the ruling party in its legislature. Aurelie Filippetti (pictured), the newly-appointed culture minister, has now said that Hadopi is not making financial sense. She said that having a staff of 60 agents and spending €12 million (approx US$14.86 million) seemed like an expensive way to simply send a million e-mails. Filippetti said that Hadopi’s funding will “be significantly reduced” for the rest of the year.

It looks as if there is some political wrangling behind the move. New French President Francois Hollande has previously spoken of wanting to ditch Hadopi altogether, but such a move may be unpopular among the music and movie industry which has traditionally been a big supporter of Hollande’s socialist party. Instead it appears the government will instead use efficiency savings as a way to effectively make the enforcement of the three strikes policy non-existent.

Geeks are Sexy needs YOUR help. Learn more about how YOU can support us here.