French Parliament Passes Final Internet Anti-Piracy Law; Reaction ExpectedPublished on 13 May 2009 @ 7:17 pm
By Catherine Saez, Intellectual Property Watch
The French Senate’s vote on Wednesday sealed the adoption by the Parliament of the controversial French HADOPI law creating a graduated punishment mechanism for alleged copyright infringement on the internet.
The bill was adopted by an overwhelming majority of 189 in favour and 14 against. This law will modify the French intellectual property code.
The draft law as adopted is available here (in French). Several amendments proposed Wednesday at the Senate were rejected.
The law creates a high-level authority for the diffusion of works and the protection of rights on the internet (French acronym HADOPI). This new entity, an independent public structure, will have several missions, among which is the promotion of commercial downloading, surveillance of legal and illegal use of works, and enforcement of a “graduated response” to illegal use of works. The law was amongst French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s priorities.
According to the draft law text, the graduated response allows two types of sanctions: a temporary suspension of internet connection, from two months to one year, or an injunction to take preventive measures such as the installation of special software that limits access to legitimate content from the internet. The latter is aimed at companies for which the connection suspension could have drastic effects, according to a summary of the law issued by the French Senate.
The law will now be reviewed by the French constitutional court before entering into effect.
Reaction to the bill is spreading. European Parliament Member Guy Bono (Socialist, France) said he would ask the European Commission to take the matter to the EU Court of Justice to carry out an infringement proceeding against France for lack of respect for European Community rules if the French constitutional judge did not react to the law.
Bono is one of the authors of Amendment 138, recently adopted by the European Parliament, which prevents sanctions against internet users without a judicial ruling (IPW Burble, 6 May 2009). The European Parliament last week said it considers access to internet as a fundamental right, making the HADOPI law a direct contradiction with the EU Parliament recommendation.
Opponents of the law insist that this measure will not foster creation or bring larger royalties to artists as intended. Opponents also doubt the applicability of such a law since the European Parliament just rejected restrictions on access to services without prior ruling by judicial authorities.
However, French Culture and Communication Minister Christine Albanel told the Senate Wednesday that “this draft law does not undermine any fundamental right” as it is important that the rights of authors and creators also be preserved. The French government has dedicated a website explaining the draft law and promoting commercial offers for legal downloading. Albanel also said that many countries had implemented laws to prevent illegal downloading, including internet connection suspension.
According to a US industry representative, US internet service providers do not support the outcome in France but rather prefer voluntary, bilateral negotiations with rights owners.
Meanwhile, sources say many websites have already published ways to circumvent the HADOPI surveillance. According to French newspaper Le Monde, the internet is buzzing with tips on avoiding detection by HADOPI.
The date of application of the law is still uncertain. A source at the French Senate said that the Ministry of Culture and Communication would issue a decree with the details on application.
Catherine Saez may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.