Hadopi: Watchdogs face-off over control of a dying three-strikes process

France's anti-piracy watchdog fought for survival this week while its broadcast regulator argued to gain control over a seriously weakened three-strikes process stripped of its internet-banning powers.
Written by Valéry Marchive, Contributor

The future of France's 'three-strikes' policy for online copyright infringers is being fought over in the country's upper house.

On Tuesday, while appearing in front of the French senate's culture committee, president of the French broadcast watchdog (CSA)Olivier Schrameck pleaded for a quick decision from the government about the future of the three-strikes process.

Published in May, the Lescure report — a study commissioned by the French government to find ways to protect French cultural works in the online age — suggested that the three strikes system should become the responsibility of the CSA. It also recommended that Hadopi, the anti-piracy watchdog in charge of the process to date, should be disbanded.

According to Schrameck, a quick decision from the government on where three strikes should end up is necessary because of an ongoing "change in [internet] users' behaviour that seems to be translating into a massive growth in piracy", ZDNet France reports. And, should the government not decide fast enough, Schrameck fears that the CSA "would inherit an irretrievably bad situation".

According to Le Monde, Aurélie Filipetti, the French minister of culture, confirmed on Tuesday that the government had agreed to the transferral of the three-strikes process to the broadcast watchdog and away from Hadopi.

The two presidents of Hadopi fought back on Thursday, telling the culture committee that there had been no sizeable shift in internet users' behaviour. One of them, Mireille Imbert-Quaretta said: "I hear that, because of the current uncertainties, piracy will have massively increased[...] There are figures, and there are fantasies. Are we seeing massive change? No."

Transferring the three-strikes process to the CSA wouldn't "stop any hypothetical growth of piracy" as the public would only remember that "Hadopi has been abolished", Imbert-Quaretta said.

In the meantime, Hadopi is keeping up the pace. It sent 80,000 emails to suspected pirates during August warning of possible sanctions if they continue to download copyrighted material, and took more than 500 decisions regarding the third strike of the process.

This last step has recently been seriously weakened of late. Previously, those attracting three strikes could face the possibility of having their internet access cut off, although to date the penalty has been handed down for just one user. In June, an individual suspected of piracy was sentenced to a €600 fine and to have his internet connection suspended for two weeks, however, the ban was later overturned.

No one else is likely to face a similar ban either: on 9 July, the ministry of culture published a decree that removed the ban from the three-strikes process. Nevertheless, internet users on the receiving end of three strikes can still be sentenced to a fine of up to €1,500.

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