French copyright crackdown claims first victim

The first person fined under the Sarkozy-era Hadopi law is a 40-year-old man whose soon-to-be-ex-wife downloaded Rihanna songs over his internet connection.
Written by David Meyer, Contributor

The first fine has been issued under the French Hadopi law, which aims to punish people for illegally downloading content online.

According to reports on Thursday, the €150 (£121) fine was levied on a 40-year-old man who had not even downloaded the offending material himself. His soon-to-be-ex-wife was the one who downloaded the Rihanna songs in question, but it was his connection and he did not stop her, so he got the fine.

The man was the first to get past the third-warning point, but the court did not cut off his internet connection — the ultimate Hadopi sanction.

It took a very long time to get to this point, seeing as the Hadopi law passed three years ago, allowing then-PM Nicolas Sarkozy's government to establish the letter-writing bureau of the same name.

Rights-holders claimed at the start of this year that the Hadopi three-strikes policy was working, on the basis that iTunes usage had gone up since the first warning letters were sent in October 2010.

At the time, around 736,000 people had received their first warning, 62,000 their second and 165 their third. The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) claimed that the result was an extra €13.8m for the French economy.

However, Sarkozy is now out of power. The Socialists, who always said they would scrap the scheme if elected, are now in government and culture minister Aurelie Filippetti said in August that Hadopi's funding was under review. She said it was costing the country €12m a year to run the letter-writing scheme, and the cutting-off of internet access was disproportionate.

In the UK, the Digital Economy Act 2010 would establish a similar scheme to Hadopi. However, the letter-writing phase has not started yet, and no sanctions will be levied on anyone until 2015, around the time of the next general election.

Editorial standards