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Monday, 23 June 2008 02:54

French say non to pirates with year long Internet ban

France gets set to get tough on Internet pirates as President Sarkozy tells his cabinet there is no reason why it should be a lawless zone. The HADOPI bill, if made law, will see persistent offenders being banned by all French ISPs.

A new three strikes and you are out law being proposed in France will take the toughest of stances against those who download pirated music or video files: no Internet access for up to a year. A state agency has been established to enforce this. The High Authority for Copyright Protection and Dissemination of Works on the Internet, or HADOPI (Haute Autorite pour la diffusion des oeuvres et la protection des droits sur Internet) for short.

HADOPI will take responsibility for collecting and collating the IP addresses of those people who have been downloading pirated media. The ISPs will be required to make this information available to it.

The 'loi HADOPI' bill was introduced to Parliament by France's Cultural Minister, Christine Albanel and has now been approved by the Council of Ministers. If it passes a Parliamentary vote later in a few months, HADOPI will become law early in 2009.

Organisations vocally opposing HADOPI include the usual consumer and civil liberties groups. No surprise there, but the fact that both the European Parliament and France's own state data protection agency have also complained about the move certainly is.

Quoted in The Times, Albanel says that it will take "a preventive and educational approach" to the problem of piracy. In which case one has to ask why France needs yet more laws, and yet more punitive measures.

The answer, at least in the eyes of the French government, can probably be found in the fact that some 300 people have been convicted for piracy over the last couple of years in France. Yet piracy remains as prevalent as ever. Certainly there has been no slowing down of the dive in popularity of recording industry sales across Europe.

At the heart of the HADOPI bill, and essential for its success, are two accords. The first has the entertainment industry agreeing to remove copyright protection on legally purchased French music and video. A sensible move that means the media that a consumer has bought can be played back on any device. The second requires all ISPs serving France to agree to blacklist convicted users for periods of up to 12 months.

This is actually quite clever, because once the initial fuss dies down as it inevitably will, the law will remain. More importantly, the onus on enforcing that law will sit firmly with the ISPs. So guess who the public will blame for what many see as a Draconian infringement of their freedom?

Not least because the cost of that enforcement, the cost of deep packet inspection monitoring, will inevitably be passed on to the law abiding Internet consumer. Oh, and the likely outcome of many innocents being caught in the anti-piracy net while the commercial scale pirates get away with it.


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