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France's Hadopi Law Defended

by Ulrika Lomas,, Brussels

22 October 2012

Head of the French authority responsible for the dissemination of works and the protection of rights on the Internet (Hadopi), Marie-Françoise Marais, has recently presented details of the organization’s 2011-2012 activity report.

The activity report reveals that 682,525 Internet users had been reprimanded for illegal downloading via a first warning, while 82,256 had received a second warning in the form of a registered letter, and 340 repeat offenders had been placed under investigation entering the penal phase, possibly facing prosecution.

In accordance with its graduated response system, or “three strikes process”, warning emails are initially dispatched to Internet users caught illegally downloading works protected by copyright. If Internet users who have already received a warning email once again come under the radar of TMG, the company mandated with supervising peer-to-peer networks on behalf of rights holders, they will then be sent a registered letter in addition to a further email.

The issuing of the letter signals the beginning of the penal phase as it will be included in the individual’s judiciary file in cases where the Internet user is summoned before a judge (third and final phase of the process).

For breaking the three strikes anti-piracy law, repeat offenders face punishment which includes a fine of EUR1,500 (USD1,971) and the suspension of the individual’s Internet account for a period of up to a month.

Defending Hadopi’s record from strong criticism, and underscoring the importance of the agency’s role in the fight against illegal downloading and in promoting legal Internet offers, Marais insisted that the authority had brought about a notable change of behaviour among users.

According to Marais, France’s graduated response system has served to inspire other countries, including South Korea, Spain and the US. Despite a reduced budget for next year of just EUR9m, compared with EUR10.4m last year, the authority will still be able to carry out all of its roles and responsibilities, Marais stressed.

Emblematic of former French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s era, Hadopi was created in 2009 as part of France’s anti-piracy law. Sarkzoy had envisaged a new law (Hadopi 3) to extend the fight against Internet piracy to online streaming.

Yet the very existence of Hadopi is now under threat. Fiercely criticized by the left for its weaknesses and insufficiencies, after three years in existence, Hadopi has only successfully fined one Internet offender. Marais has argued, however, that Hadopi is meant merely as a "repressive" tool, to be used to educate people.

The Socialist government of French President François Hollande has tasked Pierre Lescure with the role of examining the digital economy. The fate of Hadopi lies very much in his hands. Lescure is due to submit his conclusions in March.

TAGS: commerce | law | intellectual property | copyright | internet | e-commerce | France

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