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17th Aug 2019

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French National Assemby passes three-strikes internet piracy bill

  • Repeat offenders could see their internet cut off for up to a year (Photo: Johannes Jansson//norden.org)

The French National Assembly finally passed the much-contested ‘three-strikes' bill to combat internet piracy late on Thursday (2 April) evening.

In a reduced chamber, all but one of the governing UMP voted in favour of the legislation, a centrist deputy abstained and the Socialist opposition voted against.

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The so-called Creation and Internet law introduces a ‘graduated response' to illegal downloading that cuts off access to the internet for those believed to be repeatedly flouting the law.

Under the legislation, those accused of such activities are first sent an email warning them of their infraction by a new government agency. They are subsequently sent a warning letter in the post.

If after this second warning they continue to illegally download copyrighted content - the ‘third strike' - the internet service provider will cut off access to the internet for between two months and a year.

In France the legislation, widely referred to as the ‘Hadopi' law after the High Authority for the Diffusion of Oeuvres and the Protection of Rights on the Internet (Hadopi under its French acronym) - the independent public authority that is to be created to oversee its application, has met with strong opposition from internet activists.

La Quadrature du Net, an internet freedom pressure group, organised a campaign in which tens of thousands of websites across the country and beyond went dark in a ‘black-out' protest against the measures.

Calling the bill a ‘monster, the group criticised the majority deputies as pawns of President Sarkozy, who has made the bill a point of pride: "The powerless opposition confronted a wall of ‘army boots' for the majority that were only there to vote according to the desires of the executive.

"The vote ... is a symbol of the technological ignorance of a government and a majority in the service of a blind corporatism. The industries that required the Hadopi are not close to being saved [by this law], " said Jérémie Zimmermann, spokesperson for the group.

Some musicians however welcomed the passage of the legislation, with IMPALA, representing Europe's independent record companies, calling the law a "brave move" and an example for other countries to follow.

Helen Smith, chair of the group said: "We see this as a great breakthrough. Independents produce 80 percent of all new releases and as a result suffer particularly from illegal downloading. We feel that this text reaches an excellent compromise between the interests of the fans, the music companies and the internet service providers."

The legislation had already passed in the Senate, with a massive cross-party majority of 297 votes to 15. Only a handful of conservatives, centrists and socialists voted against, while the Communists abstained. Representatives of the two chambers are expected to negotiate the final text on 9 April.

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