First internet ban for user convicted under France's 'three strikes' antipiracy law

For the first time, a French internet user has been sentenced to have their internet access suspended for two weeks. But whether the ban ever comes to pass remains to be seen.

A court has used France's Haopi three-strikes antipiracy law to cut off a individual's internet access — the first time the sentence has been given.

The sentence, handed down at the end of May but revealed last week, was given to a French internet user by a district court in the suburbs of Paris.

The individual was fined €600 and sentenced to have their internet access cut off for two weeks. The user had been warned repeatedly by the Hadopi authority not to illegally download copyrighted material, but didn't respond to the warnings nor show up to the hearing.

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However, the individual may never see their internet ban come to pass – and it may actually prove an impossible sentence to carry out: French law states that users' internet access must not be fully suspended and that the convicted user must remain able to send and receive email. And, if subscribed to a triple-play offering, their phone and television services must also remain available.

Moreover, a study published last month by the French government to determine how to safeguard the country's culture and arts industries in the digital age, proposed easing France's 'three-strikes' antipiracy legislation and also ending courts' ability to cut off the internet access of those who fall foul of it.

A few days later, during the Cannes film festival, France's culture minister Aurélie Filippetti, gave assurances that internet-banning sentences would be shelved "within the upcoming month, I guess". 

Filippetti could easily meet such a timeframe: it doesn't take a new law to change the French three-strikes law's sentencing provisions - they can be amended by a simple executive order.

Meanwhile, the convicted user is able to appeal their internet ban, meaning the suspension sentence may well have disappeared before the court's ruling can be made final. 

Within the four years since its creation, the Hadopi law has cost millions of euros , generated "20 to 30 lawsuits", according to Mireille Imbert-Quaretta, president of the Rights Protection Committee at the Hadopi authority, and led to a single €150 fine .