France’s Anti-Piracy Three-Strikes Law on Hold

PARIS—Intellectual property pirates and other wayward internet file sharers received a reprieve this week when it was revealed that the “three-strikes” law passed by French legislators in October will not go into effect until after it is approved by the government agency that oversees the use of personal data and online privacy, the Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertés (CNIL).

The law itself is rather simple in concept if not potential execution. “When ‘caught’ uploading copyright works for the first time, the owner of the Internet connection used for the alleged infringement will receive an email warning,” explains TorrentFreak. “On allegations of a second offense, a physical letter will drop through the door. On the third, the account holder will be summoned to appear before a judge who will have the power to fine, or even disconnect them from the Internet.”

“What we think is that after the first message … about two-thirds of the people (will) stop their illegal usages of the internet,” said French senator Michel Thiolliere. “After the second message more than 95% will finish with that bad usage.”

TorrentFreak, for one, is not convinced that it will be nearly that easy to scare French file sharers into submission—literally—and cites several measures that even moderately tech-savvy users can use to bypass the so-called Hadopi legislation.

But all of this conjecture will have to wait until the law is actually in place, if it ever is. There is increasing speculation that CNIL, which has previously expressed reservations with aspects of the law, will not sign off on it.

According to PaidContent (PKUK), there are other reasons why the law might run into trouble before it even gets off the ground. “PCUK spoke with Tony Ballard, a partner with UK media law firm Harbottle & Lewis, who says that another possible delay might come from the need to harmonize Hadopi with the new European telecoms bill that got passed in November 2009,” wrote Ingrid Lunden. “The French government will need to ensure that whatever new legislation they put in place will be in line with the EU bill, Ballard says. But, while the European bill no longer has a provision that affected freeloaders will get a court hearing before having their accounts suspended, the French law does.

“Ballard adds that implementing Hadopi will also give more weight to similar laws being considered in the UK and elsewhere. ‘It’s very likely we will see more [laws like this in other countries] particularly with the new directive,’ he says. ‘It creates a framework through which this kind of mechanism can be deployed.’”

What does seem clear is that the green light for this law will be delayed at least until after the next round of regional elections in France, which are scheduled for March.