France pushes ahead with 'three strikes' internet law

Summary:The anti-piracy legislation, which calls for persistent file-sharers to have their internet connection cut off, is a revised version of earlier legislation struck down by the courts

French lawmakers have passed an amended version of the Hadopi legislation that calls for persistent file-sharers to be cut off from the internet.

The draft 'three strikes' legislation, named after the body which will oversee the enforcement of France's tough new stance on file-sharers, was passed by 285 votes to 225 in the French parliament's lower house on Tuesday. It now faces a vote from the upper house — consisting of a panel of 14 commissioners and deputies — to decide whether it will be fully enacted.

In May, the parliament approved a similar law that would have created a government agency called Hadopi (the Haute Autorité pour la Diffusion des Oeuvres et la Protection des droits sur Internet) to deal with suspected illegal file-sharers.

Under that earlier law, persistent file-sharers would receive two warnings about their activities, and would be cut off on the third offence, with Hadopi instructing the ISP. However, the French Constitutional Court ruled in June that Hadopi would not be able to cut off file-sharers itself, but would require a written order from a judge.

The revised law maintains that users must be sent a warning by email and a physical letter before having their internet connection suspended, but stipulates that the disconnection can only be ordered by a judge. To help police such action, the law also stipulates that internet users with a Wi-Fi connection must block unauthorised users from accessing it.

Opponents of the law, which include some members of President Sarkozy's own UMP party as well as the Socialist opposition party, have already announced their intention to challenge it in the country's constitutional court.

Jérémie Zimmermann, co-founder of French civil liberties organisation La Quadrature du Net, told ZDNet UK that the Hapodi law represented a disproportionate response to file-sharing.

"The internet is used for every major aspect of our lives, and is more and more essential for the efficient functionning of our societies," Zimmermann said. "The internet is essential for one's fundamental freedom of expression — confirmed by the French Constitutional Council — so cutting off internet access today is a kind of electronic death penalty... e-guillotine!"

Zimmerman also said Hadopi relied on identifying file-sharers via their IP address, which he described as an "inaccurate" strategy. "IP addresses can be forged and hijacked... Wi-Fi access is also easy to crack," he said.

The UK government has also put forward plans to cut off file-sharers. The new proposals for harsher sanctions on file-sharing, announced in August, interrupted a wider public consultation on legislation on the misuse of peer-to-peer technology, which is due to conclude this month.

Topics: Networking

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