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Strike trois amended in France’s Hadopi law

By | Published on Wednesday 10 July 2013


The French version of three-strikes has been revised so to remove the ultimate sanction of net disconnection, though a new fines system will be introduced that could penalise file-sharers earlier in the ‘graduated response’ process.

As much previously reported, France was one of the first countries to introduce a three-strikes style system for combating online piracy, with a special government agency called Hadopi set up to administer the procedure.

Under the system, rights owners can report suspected illegal file-sharers to the agency, which then forces the suspected file-sharer’s internet service provider to send the offender a warning letter. If said file-sharer fails to disprove the allegations and continues to file-share, they receive a sterner letter that carries a threat.

Quite what that threat is varies between the different countries that have introduced three-strikes (under the UK version, which is yet to go live, parliament left the strike three threat pretty much undefined), but in France the threatened sanction was disconnection from the internet. Originally it was implied this disconnection would be permanent, though more recent interpretations of the rule was that it would be more suspension than disconnection.

However, while warning letters have been speeding out since Hadopi was launched, there has only been one case of strike three being struck – with a two week net suspension – and now the French government has published a decree removing “the additional misdemeanour punishable by suspension of access to a communication service”.

The move follows a recent review of the 2009 anti-piracy law, which questioned the effectiveness of the three-strikes deterrent in pushing file-sharers over to licensed music services, which was the original intent. That report also suggested removing the most draconian part of the three-strikes system. Instead file-sharers will face automatic fines, which could rise to 1500 euros for persistent offenders.

Since 2009, when three-strikes was high up the agenda of many governments committed to fighting online piracy, alternative options have generally been prioritised. That includes web-blocking injunctions (like in the UK, despite parliament actually prioritising three-strikes), and initiatives to stop file-sharing sites from accepting money and appearing in search engine results. Some now wonder if the British three-strikes system outlined in the 2010 Digital Economy Act will ever actually go live.

Though in Ireland, the three-strikes system voluntarily operated by ISP Eircom (ie it was the result of an agreement between the labels and the net firm, not a three-strikes law) will be allowed to continue. As previously reported, the country’s Data Protection Commissioner questioned the legality of the three-strikes system Eircom was operating, but an Irish court last year overruled those concerns. The DPC appealed, but last week Ireland’s Supreme Court upheld the original judgement, allowing three-strikes to continue.